The Sugar Quill
Author: Three Sickles Short (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: James Potter: Preparing for Hogwarts  Chapter: Chapter Two: Tea With Grandfather
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Chapter Two: Tea With Grandfather

 

The guard watched as Jamie stood up, straightened his glasses, and attempted to smooth his unruly black hair. "May I help you, lad?" he asked.

"Hi. I’m Jamie Potter. I’m supposed to meet my grandfather, John, for tea."

"Ah, yes. He’s expecting you." The guard touched a spot on the desk in front of him with his wand. A bubble appeared, hovering in the air above his desk. The image of another uniformed guard, this one a woman, stood inside the bubble. "Officer Squiggins, would you please come and escort young Mr. Potter to his grandfather’s office?"

"Certainly, Officer Humdinger," the woman in the bubble replied. Officer Humdinger tapped the bubble with his wand, and it popped; the image of Officer Squiggins disappeared. A few moments later, the flesh-and-blood Squiggins arrived through a door behind Humdinger’s desk. "Come with me, Mr. Potter," she said, smiling at Jamie. He did. They walked through the winding, multi-branched passages of the Ministry building; it reminded Jamie a lot of Gringotts, but with no cart. And this was more… institutional, that was the word—harsher lights, less grandeur. No marble and plush here; instead, hard-wearing carpet and dirt-camouflaging paint. It definitely wasn’t as pretty as Gringotts, but it was, in its way, impressive. Jamie had a feeling that these halls, like the halls of Gringotts, brooked no nonsense. This was a place for purposeful footsteps, clipped voices, efficiency. Not a place for fun, but a place for serious work.

After several minutes, several confusing turns, and lots of staircases, so that it seemed they had retraced parts of their path even though they really hadn’t, Jamie and Officer Squiggins arrived at Grandfather’s door. She knocked, and a voice from inside called, "Come in!"

They entered the room, and Squiggins reported, "Got him here safely, sir."

"Thank you, Squiggins. You may go." Officer Squiggins left, shutting the door behind her, leaving Jamie alone with his grandfather. "Hello, Jamie," Grandfather said warmly. Grandfather was a big man—not quite as tall as Dad, but broader through the shoulders and a little thicker through the chest. His hair, as unruly as his grandson’s, was silver, and he, too, wore glasses behind which sparkled warm brown eyes. His son had those eyes, too, but Jamie’s eyes were like Mum’s and Nicky’s—bright blue and crinkly at the corners when he smiled. Grandfather rose from his large leather chair and walked around his massive mahogany desk to hug his grandson. "How’ve you been?"

"Good. You?"

"Not bad. Have a seat. Are you hungry?"

"A little," Jamie answered, taking a seat on the green velvet couch just across from Grandfather’s desk. "I had lunch before I Flooed to the Leaky Cauldron, but that was a while ago."

"I’ll ring for tea, then." Just as Humdinger had done, Grandfather touched a spot on his desk with his wand. A bubble appeared, this one containing the image of a house elf. "Flippy, could you please bring tea for two to my office? Earl Grey for both of us, I think. And a few extra éclairs and macaroons, if you don’t mind," he requested.

"Yes, sir. Flippy will have it there as soon as he can. Would sir like crumpets?" As Grandfather and the house elf worked out the menu for tea, Jamie looked around the office; he had never been here before. This was a much cozier place than the rest of the building. Instead of hard-wearing industrial carpet, there were hardwood floors and plushy Oriental rugs in dark green, navy, and burgundy. The upholstery on the mahogany furniture picked up the colors in the rugs, and framed portraits of past inhabitants of this office dozed on the walls. Grandfather’s Hogwarts diploma, Jamie noticed, hung on the wall just over the coat rack, where Grandfather’s pinstriped cloak and lime green bowler hung neatly. It was a nice place, Jamie decided.

"Thank you, Flippy," Grandfather said, ending his conversation with the house elf. He popped the bubble with his wand, then turned his attention back to Jamie. "I have quite a weakness for the Ministry kitchen’s macaroons, and your father says that you are an éclair man, yes?"

"Yes, sir," said Jamie with a grin.

"Very good. Now, tell me about your day in Diagon Alley. Did you find all of your things?"

"Yes, I found them all, no problem. I put them in the Gringotts vault like Mum said to."

"Good. Anything interesting happen? Did you meet any of your classmates?"

"Kind of. I think I made a friend. And I know I made an enemy."

"Tell me about it." Jamie recounted the story of the boy from Gringotts—the one named Sirius—and the boy with the greasy hair. "So your Disarming Spell worked?" Grandfather asked.

"Yes." Jamie knew that he wasn’t supposed to be doing spells, so he rushed to explain. "I didn’t really mean to do it. I didn’t even know I knew how to. It just... happened." He looked at Grandfather anxiously, expecting to see disapproval in his face. He was surprised to see amusement instead, and maybe a glimmer of pride.

"That’s very impressive, Jamie. It’s not a terribly advanced spell, but it’s still not one I’d have expected a person to be able to perform with no training. Very interesting. And you think your wand had something to do with your ability to perform it?"

"Probably. Mr. Ollivander said that it was a very powerful wand. I think it knew what I wanted to do, even though I didn’t really know how to do it."

"Maybe so. Maybe so." Grandfather was nodding thoughtfully, looking abstracted. He shook his head as though to clear his thoughts and looked seriously at Jamie. "You’ll know that you can’t depend on a wand to do that on a consistent basis. Usually you have to know what you’re doing, no matter how powerful the wand."

"Right. I won’t count on my wand to get me out of scrapes all the time," Jamie assured him.

"Very good. And that boy, Snape... do keep an eye on him, just as Arachne—Madame Malkin, that is—said to do. His father...." Grandfather trailed off. "You’re about to enter Hogwarts, Jamie, and it is there where you will learn to become a full member of the wizarding world." Jamie felt a little confused, wondering where this speech could be going, but he nodded and tried to look grown up. "Since you are now a Hogwarts student—or will be, as of tomorrow—I consider you...not an adult, exactly, but a... a rational agent. Do you see?"

Jamie thought about it for a moment, and suddenly he did see. "I think so. You mean you think I’m old enough not to be treated like a kid."

Grandfather smiled. "Quite so. I think that you are mature enough to be trusted with information that I would not entrust to a child. As my grandson, you’ll be expected to know things that other students may not know. Your classmates may seek you out as a source of information, and I’d like for you to be able to help them if they do. I asked you to tea today partly just because I like to see you, but partly so that I could... tell you things. Some of these things, you may share with your classmates; others, I will request you keep to yourself. Can you handle all of that?"

"I think so." Jamie felt a little nervous, but excited, too. Grandfather knew all sorts of things, and he felt very flattered that Grandfather wanted to share some of those things with him. "And I promise not to tell anything that you say not to."

"Thank you. Now, the first thing...." Here Grandfather was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Come in," he said, sounding a touch resigned.

A smallish, slightly pot-bellied wizard in early middle age burst in, looking scandalised. "Minister Potter, have you seen Weasley’s report on Shrinking Keys? It’s an outrage! I can’t believe he. . . ." His eyes fell on Jamie, and he broke off. "Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you had company."

"My grandson. He starts at Hogwarts tomorrow, and I wanted to have tea with him before he goes. Jamie, this is Cornelius Fudge, Head of Muggle Relations. Cornelius, Jamie Potter."

"Nice to meet you, lad," Fudge muttered, shaking Jamie’s hand.

"And you, sir," Jamie replied.

"Now, Cornelius, if we could perhaps discuss this later? Jamie’s scheduled for the nine-minutes-to-five Portkey to Gringotts, and I don’t want to make him late, so my time with him is rather limited."

Fudge looked defeated. "Certainly, Minister Potter." He brightened a bit. "I’ll come back at five, shall I?"

"Can it wait until tomorrow?"

"It’s very important, Minister," Fudge said, sounding a little pompous. "I really think…."

"Fine, come back at five," Grandfather said, cutting him off. "Goodbye, Cornelius."

"See you then, Minister." Fudge left, shutting the door behind him.

Grandfather looked after him for a moment. "Fudge is a born bureaucrat, and a sycophant to boot. ‘Have you seen the report, Minister?’ ‘It’s an outrage, Minister!’ ‘A moment of your time, Minister... terribly important,’" he mimicked. "Drives me mad. Don’t know how poor Arthur puts up with him all the time...." He looked at Jamie as though suddenly remembering that he was there. "That is the first bit of information that you are not to share with your classmates," he said with mock severity. "Can’t have them knowing that one of my Department heads is a bumbling, simpering fool."

"Yes, sir," Jamie replied, trying—and failing—not to grin.

The house elf from the bubble suddenly arrived in the fireplace with a pop, laden with two silver tea trays. "Here is your tea, sirs. Flippy is sorry it is taking so long; there was a fresh batch of macaroons coming out of the oven, and Flippy is knowing how much sir is liking his macaroons. Flippy hopes he was right to wait," he said anxiously.

"You were right to wait, indeed, Flippy," Grandfather said kindly. "Thank you very much."

"Sir is very welcome." Flippy placed one tea tray on Grandfather’s desk and the other on a table beside Jamie and poured the first cup for each of them. "Is sir needing anything else?"

"That should do, Flippy. Thank you."

"Most welcome, sir." The house elf hopped back into the fireplace and disappeared.

"A very good house elf, that one," Grandfather remarked. "I took him in here at the Ministry when his master died. Offered him a salary, but he wouldn’t take it... said his master wouldn’t have wanted him to. I wish they’d learn to stand up for themselves, but.... Anyway, back to our talk. The father of that Snape boy is indeed involved in the Dark Arts. You may share that with your classmates because it is practically common knowledge in the wizarding world already. What you may not share with them is this: Tobias Snape has spent time in Azkaban. The trial was conducted privately for the sake of his family—particularly his wife, who has... troubles that she, unlike her husband, did not bring on herself. Poor woman, she... she has been very unlucky, and I’m not sure what sorts of effects her... unluckiness... is likely to have on her son. At any rate, not many people know about Tobias Snape’s time in Azkaban. He’s out now, but I don’t think the stint there did him a ny good; from what I hear, he’s right back into the Dark Arts again. He’s being a little more careful, though, because I told him that the next trial would be public. The Snapes tend to care a lot about pride and keeping up appearances, and I’m hoping the threat of a public trial will keep him at least mostly in line."

"What was he tried for?" Jamie asked, dabbing at his face with his napkin. The éclairs were huge, and he couldn’t seem to take a bite without getting chocolate on his nose.

"Trafficking in controlled potions. Brilliant mind, Snape; those are very difficult potions to brew, but he can pop them out like toast. I just wish he’d put his talents to better use. Now, I’ve told you about his time in prison to give you a little leverage. You may not tell your classmates about young Snape’s father. However, if young Snape himself gives you any trouble, you may threaten to tell everyone. Only do that if you feel you must, but, if you do feel you must, go ahead."

"Yes, sir."

"Now, something a little more important. You know where your father is, yes?"

"Yes, sir. He’s in Brittany," Jamie answered.

"Do you know why he’s in Brittany?"

"Something about getting in touch with a werewolf colony. But that’s all I know; I don’t know why you wanted him to do it."

"You’ll have heard the rumours about... strange happenings, yes?"

Jamie nodded. "A few of them. Some people reckon they’re caused by a Dark wizard."

"Indeed. And what do you reckon?"

Jamie thought for a moment. "Well, if they are being caused by a Dark Wizard, he’d be getting more powerful, wouldn’t he? Because the stuff that’s happening... well, it’s getting harder. The stuff that happened, say, a year ago wouldn’t have been as hard to do as the stuff that’s happening now. Right?"

"Exactly. You’re a smart boy, Jamie."

"Thanks!" Jamie smiled, surprised and gratified. Grandfather seldom gave such direct praise. "So, do you think it is a Dark wizard?"

"It may be. We—’we’ being Ministry officials—are hoping it might be a group of Dark wizards."

"Why would you hope that?" Jamie asked, "Why would you want it to be a group instead of... oh, I get it. If it were a group, you’d be dealing with their combined power. So, individually, they’d be weaker. But, if it’s just one, then all the power is his. Is that it?"

"That’s it exactly. If it is only one wizard, then he may be becoming the most powerful Dark wizard that any of us have ever seen—even more powerful than Grindelwald. And that is more than any of us want to face." Grandfather paused, looking troubled. Then he continued. "Even if it is several wizards, I think we will be facing difficult times, Jamie. There are always people who, for whatever reasons—cowardice, ignorance, blind ambition—will follow a Dark wizard if he gets powerful enough. We will all need to be on guard in the coming years—on guard for people who would follow Dark wizards, and on guard for weaknesses in ourselves that might let a Dark wizard exploit us. I want you to take care, Jamie, and to encourage others to take care, but a particular kind of care. I don’t want you to become fearful, or to encourage fearfulness in others. I want you and your classmates to have normal lives—to learn and to make friends and to test your own limits. But I also want you—and your friends—to be... more aware than people often are. Just keep your eyes open. Do you follow me?"

"I think so, sir. I need to be careful, but not so careful that I get scared to... do stuff... like, to take risks."

"That is it exactly. Remember that, and you will be fine."

"Yes, sir." They were both quiet for a moment, thinking things over. Then Jamie said, "I still don’t understand what that has to do with Dad and the werewolves."

"Ah, yes. Werewolves are particularly sensitive to Dark magic; they can feel its presence in their blood, much like the way they can feel the pull of the moon in their blood. Your father is negotiating with this werewolf colony to try to get some of them to work for the Ministry. I’d like to send them to places where these strange things have been happening and to see if they can sense Darkness there and, if so, how strongly they sense it."

"So they’re kind of like living Dark detectors."

"Yes, but much more reliable."

"And do you think they’ll be willing to help?"

Grandfather sighed. "I don’t know. If I were a werewolf, I don’t know that I’d do it. They have faced so much prejudice over the years that they are very slow to trust. Things are getting a bit better for them; government-sponsored prejudice, for instance, is not nearly so prevalent as it used to be. They can even vote now in most countries; did you know that?" Jamie nodded. "But they are still, for the most part, shunned by wizarding society. And, since society gives them so little respect, why should they help?" He sighed again, but then he brightened a bit. "I’m hoping, though, that your father can convince them to help. He’s a very persuasive man, your father, and a patient and persistent one. I hope he’ll eventually be able to wear them down and get them to listen to him. If anyone can do it, I know William can."

Jamie felt a rush of pride for his father. Dad was doing an important job, helping to fight the Dark Arts. Not all of his classmates, he knew, could say that about their fathers.

"Now, let’s talk about Hogwarts. Have you thought at all about your House?"

"Yeah, lots. I’m a little nervous about that," Jamie confessed. "I really don’t want to get put in Slytherin."

"I doubt very much that you’ll have to worry about that. House selection usually runs in families to a large extent, and no member of the Potter family or your mother’s family has ever been Sorted into Slytherin. Potters tend to be either Gryffindors or Hufflepuffs, and your mother’s family, the Smythes, tend to be Ravenclaws, though I think they have had a few Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs over the years."

"What house were you in, Grandfather?"

"I was in Gryffindor like my father. It was a splendid place. Your father was a Hufflepuff, as my grandfather was, and your mother, as I recall, was a Ravenclaw." He paused. "Grandmother Potter was also a Ravenclaw."

Jamie’s eyes widened a bit, but he didn’t say anything. No one ever mentioned Grandmother Potter, who had been murdered when Dad was very small. He wondered if Grandfather was going to say more about her, but he didn’t. Instead, he continued, "Aside from not wanting Slytherin, do you have any strong feelings about the other Houses?"

"Not really. I’ve heard good things about all of them from people who were in them—Dad loved it in Hufflepuff, and Mum says Ravenclaw was really good, and you say Gryffindor was fun. So I guess I could be pretty happy anywhere—anywhere but Slytherin, that is."

Grandfather laughed. "You’re right. You should be fine wherever you go. I advise you, though, wherever you end up, not to pay undue attention to House lines. Make your friends based on who they are, not where they live. If you’re a Ravenclaw and you see a lot of merit in a person who’s in Hufflepuff, try to make friends with that person. Don’t let House differences stop you, all right?" Grandfather looked very serious.

"Okay."

"There’s been a problem over the past few years with students not mixing with people outside their own Houses; I’m hoping your year can turn that around. If these dark days that we were discussing do come to pass, we’ll all need to learn that it’s strength of character, not House affiliation, that matters. Also, don’t listen to any of that Slytherin rot about purity of blood. Plenty of good witches and wizards have been Muggle-born. And Muggle-borns are just as important to the fight against the Dark Arts as purebloods are. Don’t consider blood when you’re choosing your friends. Consider families, perhaps, when you’re dealing with wizard-born children, because children are often a lot like their parents. But don’t even let that sway you too much. Children are often like their parents, but they can also, with help, learn not to repeat their parents’ mistakes. Do you understand all that?" Jamie nodded. Grandfather paused, then smiled. "But enough of the heavy stuff. Would you like to kn ow about your teachers? And your classmates? I have a list of both right here."

"That would be great!"

"Okay, teachers first. As a first-year, you’ll only have seven classes—Astronomy, History of Magic, Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Herbology. There are lots of other classes to choose from when you get older, but those seven are the only ones you need to worry about for now, so those are the only teachers I’ll go over. Does that sound good?

"Yeah. Sounds fine."

"Okay. Astronomy is with Professor Sinistra. She’s new this year; she was one of the top Astronomy students when she was at Hogwarts a few years ago, and I think she’s been apprenticed to the Astronomy teacher at Set-ras—that’s the best wizarding school in Egypt. Great astronomers, the Egyptians. Anyway, she’s very smart. She was a Ravenclaw. For classroom attitude, and I’d expect her to be firm, but not overly strict. I’d expect the workload she gives you to be fairly light in terms of amount, but rich in content; she’ll teach you a lot in just a little time. Need to know anything else about her?"

"Don’t think so, sir," Jamie said.

"Okay. History of Magic. That’s Professor Binns. He’s a ghost. He was a ghost when I was there; blighter’s been dead for at least 70 years. And he is dull as dishwater. The way he drones on, he could make Quidditch sound boring. You’ll have to rely entirely on the textbook if you want to learn anything interesting from that class."

"Sounds a real treat," Jamie said ironically. He wasn’t looking forward to History of Magic.

"Dumbledore and I talk about cutting him loose every year, but we can never quite bring ourselves to do it. He really does love his subject, even though he can’t teach for toffee, and, well, History of Magic you can get from a book—more so than the hands-on subjects, anyway. At least his class gives you time to catch up on your sleep. On a brighter note, there’s Charms. Filius Flitwick is the professor there. He and I were at school together. He was in Ravenclaw with your grandmother, and he’s smart as a whip—I barely edged him out as Head Boy, and I only managed that because our Herbology professor had it in for Fil. Anyway, he was a Dueling champion in his youth. He’s got some fairy blood—probably about a quarter; I think his dad was half-fairy—so he’s very small and quick, which served him well on the professional Dueling circuit. When he got tired of Dueling, he came back to Hogwarts as Charms professor. He tends to let his classes get pretty wild; you’ll learn a lot, and , as you learn more Charms, you’ll get to have lots of fun. I think that about covers Flitwick."

"He sounds kind of cool."

"He is. He’s a good man. And then there’s Transfiguration. That professor is Minerva McGonagall, head of Gryffindor House. She’s very smart, and tough as nails—one of the most competent and formidable witches I’ve ever met. She’ll not tolerate foolishness, and she’ll work you harder than anyone, but she’s always fair, and you can’t get out of her class without learning a lot. She’ll probably be one of the strictest professors you ever have, but, as I say, fair. She also serves as sort of deputy head whenever Dumbledore, the headmaster, gets called away."

"Tell me about Dumbledore," Jamie said. "When you finish with the others, I mean."

"I will. I’m saving him for last. Anyway, Potions. That’s taught by Arsinius Jigger. He’s probably the best potions brewer in the world. He’s head of Ravenclaw and has been since I was there. Rumour is that he’s planning to step down as head of House in a couple of years to write a Potions textbook; Flitwick will probably take over House duties when he goes. At any rate, Arsinius is wonderful, and his classes are lots of fun. They never get quite as rowdy as I hear that Flitwick’s do, but fun nonetheless.

"And then there’s Defence. That’s taught by Alden Avery. He’s Head of Slytherin, and he favors them blatantly. I don’t entirely trust him and never have; his family is deep in the Dark Arts. Dumbledore says he’s okay, though, and not like the rest of his family, so I let him stay on. And I must admit that he’s very good at Defence. He’s not a nice man at all, though, so take care not to get on the wrong side of him. He’ll be even stricter than Minverva—Professor McGonagall—with everyone but his own House.

"Finally, Herbology with Professor Sprout. She’s Head of. . . guess."

"Hufflepuff," Jamie said. "You’ve already mentioned the other three Heads."

"Very good. Just making sure you’re taking it all in. She’s a little flighty, but a nice woman and a good teacher. You’ll learn a lot from her, too.

"And I think that’s all of the teachers. Oh, and I should mention the gamekeeper, Rubeus Hagrid. He’s a good chap—a bit uncouth, perhaps, but a kinder man you’ll never find. And he’s very loyal to Dumbledore. Oh, and he’s half-giant, but you’re not to spread that around; given the prejudice against giants, I think he likes to keep that pretty quiet. He’s been at Hogwarts for years, so he knows the place better than almost anyone—except for Albus, of course. He’s been there, in fact, since he was expelled in his third year."

"What was he expelled for?" Jamie asked curiously.

"That I don’t know. It was some time after I left Hogwarts, but before I had risen very far in the Ministry. I asked Albus about it in passing once, and all he said was that it was ‘an unfortunate misunderstanding, and best forgotten.’ So I let it drop. Anyhow, as for Dumbledore, I can’t tell you much about him that everyone doesn’t already know. He’s been called the most powerful wizard in the world, and that’s probably true; he’s at least in the top three or so. And he’s a wonderful man—wise, and fair, and generous, and brave, and. . . just wonderful. He’s been a very dear friend to our family for years—since he and your great-grandfather were in school together, in fact, in Gryffindor House."

"He must be pretty old, right?" Jamie asked. "Grandpa Joseph has to be over a hundred and twenty."

"A hundred and twenty-four, to be precise. Yes, Dumbledore is pretty old. But he’s got a lot of years left; except for his hair, he shows no signs of age. Still strong, still quick, and still the sharpest mind in the wizarding world."

"I’m looking forward to meeting him," Jamie said. "He sounds really cool."

"That he is. Now, how about your classmates?" Grandfather lifted a sheet of paper from his desk. "This year is a pretty big class—there are about 70 of you. Looks like 25 or so are Muggle-born; I won’t know their families. As for the rest. . . I’ll just hit the ones whose families are particularly noteworthy. Let’s see. . . I know the Abbotts; good folks, those. And the Blacks. . . . Did you say that the boy you rescued from young Snape was named Sirius?"

"Yes, sir."

"His last name is Black. He’s the son of Polaris and Lyra Black. Polaris was the Auror killed in that Azkaban uprising a few years back."

"I remember that. That’s when they put the Dementors in charge, isn’t it?"

"It is. I’m still not happy about that; I don’t trust the Dementors at all." Grandfather sighed. "But we haven’t been able to come up with a better solution yet; I’ve got an entire Department working on it, though, and I’m hoping they’ll come up with something. Polaris was a good man and a good worker; we miss him here at the Ministry. Lyra’s also an Auror; she’s been taking time off since Polaris died, but I think she’s coming back to work once her son starts school."

He looked on down the list. "Hmm. . . lots of Muggle-borns early in the alphabet this year. . . interesting. Ah, Lupin, Remus. His dad is a Dark Arts Hit Man—kills vampires and such. Mysterious character, but a good man; he’s done some work for the Ministry from time to time. Originally from France, I think—the name was Lupin [Grandfather pronounced it like a French word: loo-PAHn], but he Anglicised it so people here would quit mangling it. Went to school at Beauxbaton." He continued down the list. "Hamish MacAdder. That’ll be Archie’s grandson, I bet. Archie’s a nutter, but harmless. McNair, Walden. Family’s deep in the Dark Arts; I’d be wary of that one; same Same for Nathaniel Nott. And then there’s Pettigrew, Peter. The Pettigrews are an old family, and they insist on marrying their cousins, so they’ve gotten a little inbred. I hear young Peter’s practically a squib; his parents despair of him. I wish they’d be a little nicer to the boy; he seems like he’d be a good chap if not for all of the family pressure. Ah, well.

"Then there’s you, and after you comes Simmons, Samantha. Her parents are Unspeakables--brilliant minds, both of them. Then young Snape. . . ." He paused again, working his way along. "Ah, Elizabeth Weasley. She’ll be the last in this generation. There are fourteen of the Weasley children. Arthur, the oldest boy, is the one whose report Fudge was ranting about. You couldn’t find a nicer family. Good people, all of them. Finally, Gilbert Wimple—mum works in our Experimental Charms Department. A good woman, but not the sharpest knife in the drawer; she’s always ending up with after-effects from the charms. That’s about it for the noteworthy. . . . I recognise a few more names, but none that I know very well." He looked at Jamie. "Did you take all of that in?"

"Most of it," Jamie said. "It’ll help when I can put faces with all of the names."

"Indeed. Oh, and, speaking of names, what are you going to go by at Hogwarts?"

"Do what?" Jamie didn’t follow.

"What name will you go by? Will you have your classmates call you ‘Jamie,’ or will you try something different."

Jamie considered this. "I hadn’t really thought about it. Why?"

"Well, I was ‘J.P.’ at school. After I graduated and came to work for the Ministry, I decided that I wanted to be ‘John,’ but it was too late; all my school chums were too used to calling me ‘J.P.’ So now they all still call me ‘J.P.,’ and I’m only ‘John’ in the Daily Prophet articles."

"I see. ‘Jamie’ isn’t going to fit so well when I’m forty, is it?" Jamie mused. "‘Jim’?" he said. "‘Jim Potter’? No, I don’t think I like that. How about just ‘James’? ‘James Potter.’ ‘Quidditch star James Potter announced today....’ Yeah, I think that works."

Grandfather smiled. "I like it. Don’t even bother to try to get your parents to use it, though," he warned. "You’ll always be two years old in their eyes, so they’ll never believe that they should call you anything other than what they called you when you really were two years old."

"I guess Nicky’s in for it, then, isn’t he?" Jamie—now James—commented. He tried to picture his baby brother as an adult, looking rather like Grandfather, and still being called "Nicky." It was pretty funny.

"Maybe you’d better start breaking them of that now; Nick will thank you for that later," said Grandfather with a smile. He glanced at the clock on his wall. "It’s nearly time for your Portkey, so I’d better send you on your way. Should I call for someone to take you?"

"You’d probably better; I don’t think I could find my way back—all those stairs!"

"Well, you’ll get used to that soon enough at Hogwarts; it’s almost as complicated as here." Grandfather tapped the spot on his desk. A bubble containing an image of Officer Squiggins appeared. "Squiggins, could you come and escort my grandson back to the atrium? He has a Portkey to catch."

"Right away, sir," Officer Squiggins replied.

"Thank you." Grandfather popped the bubble. "Let’s see, we’d better gather your things." Grandfather pulled a box from under his desk. "Here are the phials and scales that I promised you. I’ve put some extra pieces of parchment in there with them; use those to send me an owl every now and again, will you?"

"Yes, sir," James promised. "Oh, and my I take one of the cream cakes? Nicky—Nick, that is—really likes them."

"Of course." Grandfather wrapped a cream cake and added an éclair. "One for the road," he said, winking. "Will you be talking with your father tonight?"

"Yes; we’re supposed to talk by Fireplace at eight."

"Good. When you talk with him, tell him that I said to remind him about the surprise."

"What surprise?" James asked, his interest piqued.

Grandfather smiled mysteriously. "If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise, now would it?" he replied. He came around his desk to hug James good-bye. "Come in," he said, responding to the knock at the door. Squiggins opened the door and entered the room. "Off you go, then, James. Take care. Study hard, but don’t forget to have fun, right? And do owl to let me know how things are going. Oh, and tell your Mum and Nick hello for me."

"I will, sir. And good luck with that Shrinking Key report. . . sounds fascinating." He winked. Grandfather shook his head, trying not to smile. He hugged James again for good measure, thanked Officer Squiggins, and sent them off, closing his door behind them.

James and Squiggins re-traced their twisting, maze-like path back to the atrium. Humdinger was still standing guard. "Have a nice visit with the Minister?" he asked.

"Very nice, thanks."

"You’re down for the next Portkey to Gringotts, right? Here it is." He handed James an empty Butterbeer bottle. "And you’re just in time for it; it leaves right about...."

James felt a jerk, and the end of Humdinger’s sentence was lost to him in howling wind and swirling color.

//
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