Odi et Amo: The Necromancer's Psychomanteum

Chapter 22: Companions and Adversaries

"It is beyond us now." Far away voices wafted about Taylor's right ear. Severe by nature, the words lingered lazily. The girl drifted, warm and relaxed, between reality and dreamscapes. "Indestructible." Coaxed from her slumber, Taylor reluctantly opened her eyes. Instantly, she was blinded by a pool of sunlight streaming in from a nearby window. Bloody hell, the dungeons are never this bright in the morning.Her pin-prick pupils squinted sightlessly around the room.

"It will be protected by powerful magic, in a place where it will never hatch."

Who is that? Where am I? Confused, Taylor struggled to sit up. She had fallen asleep on a mysterious burgundy suede sofa. Beyond the couch were neat stacks of parchment, alphabetized piles of books, and a small coffee table. A banister separated her from a room below, where the voices continued to quietly deliberate. Upon standing, Taylor noticed a dismantled chess set on the floor. I wonder who won, Dumbledore or— I am still in Dumbledore's office! Hurriedly, the eager student rushed to the edge of the balcony to listen.

Predictably, the headmaster remained behind his desk. Virgil, the figure summoned from the empty silver frame the night before, stood formally in front of Dumbledore. His hair was tied back neatly and the goatee on his face was trimmed. Wild brown eyes accentuated his aquiline features, which gave off the impression that Virgil was not merely a man, but a fierce bird of prey. Although the stranger was intriguing, Taylor's eyes discovered a more fascinating subject. On the headmaster's desk was a leather bowling ball case. An opulent jade sphere with golden varicose veins protruded from the open bag. The egg! My dream was right?

"Indeed, sir. We will report to you when the party reaches Tamanrasset." Virgil leaned in to latch the case closed, but froze when his eyes detected the spy above. "You! Up there! How long have you been listening?"

Taylor shrank away from the banister, hoping the confrontation would disappear. The heavy sound of footsteps upon the stairs, however, warned of an approaching hostility. The Slytherin girl held onto her wand tightly. Before Virgil could reach the summit, Dumbledore intervened in her favor.

"I do believe that is uncalled for Mr. Park. Miss Lupin is very much aware of the consequences which would incur should the egg's whereabouts be revealed. Do not worry needlessly."

Discontented with Dumbledore's conviction in the matter, Virgil scoffed and returned to the quest bestowed upon him. Without another look toward the balcony, he packed up the jeweled ovum and exited the headmaster's office. Cautiously, Taylor tucked the wand inside her robes and returned to the banister near the stairs. The headmaster waved the student down persuasively.

"The dream—" She began.

"Was correct." Dumbledore nodded. "Very curious." Taylor studied the headmaster, before pressing for more information.

"What does it mean professor?"

Dumbledore smiled, a twinkle gleaming in his eyes. "A number of possible things. Perhaps a lucky coincidence. To be sure though, your role in this matter is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside of an enigma." He observed the Taylor's apprehension, then added. "It does not do to dwell too long on the unknown. For now, allow this event to digest. You will need plenty of room for the upcoming end-of-term feast. Enjoy your final week as a first year without any other pressure."

Bidding Dumbledore a farewell, Taylor left the headmaster's office. It is all over. The necromancers are gone; I can sleep soundly; the egg is being sent somewhere safe. Normalcy can resume. Well, whatever normal is for a witch. As Taylor reached the grand staircase, she was forcibly pushed into the cold wall. Instinctually, she covered her head with her arms.

"You may have Dumbledore fooled, but I see right passed your little charade."

Taylor pushed the towering figure away defensively. Leather case strapped to his side, Virgil threateningly loomed over her. What a creep, picking on someone half his age. Unwilling to let the older man bully her into any false confession, the Slytherin girl straightened up aggressively.

"Charade? There is no—"

"So you just happen to have a dream providing the answers to a sixty year old question? You just happen to be related to the person who the egg was buried with? Somehow two first years just happen to disarm a brilliant Defense Against the Dark Arts professor until he's eaten by Gytrash? You are up to something and I demand to know what it is!"

Taylor narrowed her eyes at him indignantly. "I did have a dream. My family is none of your business, and Professor Greer's death was an accident. You're right about one thing though, I am up to something. I am trying to find myself some breakfast. Maybe I'll steal an extra few spoonfuls of jam for my toast today."

"Clever act, but I wouldn't put it passed the Dark Lord to use children as spies. Don't get too comfortable. I'll have my eyes on you." Virgil spat angrily. He turned on his heel and continued down the hallway.

Taylor wrinkled her nose and smoothed out her robes. A bitter taste lingered in her mouth, even after a hearty English breakfast.

Taking into consideration Dumbledore's advice, Taylor chose to thoroughly enjoy the remaining week of the term. Luckily, she only had one essential exam to complete: a basic flying course for Madam Hooch. Confident she passed the exam with honors, the student rewarded herself with ample time outdoors and social occasions. Whether she was walking the grounds with Fionn, collecting shells off the lakeshore with Lily, or reading in the library with Remus, Taylor felt completely at peace. Adding to the excitement and contentment, the girl received high marks on all of her tests. Sirius and James, on the other hand, barely scrapped by; having the brilliant ability to perform the tasks, but the lack of motivation to really focus on the assignments. Neither seemed perturbed by the results.

During the end-of-term feast, Taylor settled comfortably at the Slytherin table. Though Lily felt obligated to remain with her own house for the evening, she regularly exchanged comical facial contortions with her friend across the hall. Fionn, for the fourth continuous night in a row, chose to sit next to Taylor, though he barely took advantage of the meal presented.

"I am pleased to announce that this year, the House Cup will be awarded to Ravenclaw! Impressive work and serious dedication pay off. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." Following Dumbledore's proclamation, the room unfolded into a rush of cerulean and bronze décor. Shouts and cheers echoed between the students, many of whom exchanged handshakes in good sportsmanship.

"At least Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup. It eases the pain of losing to a flock of know-it-alls." James snorted.

In minor irritation, Remus rolled his eyes dramatically. Before he could point out their reason for the loss, Lily enthusiastically chirped in. "If you and Black hadn't lost Gryffindor over a hundred points each, we may have been able to enjoy both. That being said, I think Ravenclaw deserves a bit of recognition."

"Harsh Evans." James waved a fork at her playfully. "Without us though, Hogwarts may have been shut down."

"How do you figure?" Remus raised an eyebrow.

"The way I see it, the school would still be swarming with those hellhounds and necromancers had we not put a stop to it."

"I appreciate the fact you take partial credit for what I've done almost singlehandedly." Sirius chimed into the conversation.

"You mean what Taylor did singlehandedly." Lily corrected the glory hoarders.

"Strange." Sirius scratched the side of his face in thought. "That isn't how I remember it." Choosing to change the dark subject, Sirius wrapped an arm around Peter. "I am going to miss you guys."

Peter smiled, eager to be accepted by the table's hero.

"Of course you will." James bit into a piece of ham. "There is no home like Hogwarts."

Clusters of Ravenclaws proudly plumed over their victory the entire night. The following morning, hudles of students were ushered toward the familiar black and red train, which would carry them to King's Cross Station in London. Taylor herded her luggage across the boarding platform and onto the bustling train. Students rushed back and forth bidding goodbyes to their friends and professors. Notes were distributed out, warning the underaged wizards to not use magic over the holidays. Overwhelmed, the Slytherin girl hoped to catch Fionn before departure, though the mayhem of travel concealed his whereabouts.

Diving out of the madness, Taylor packed away her belongings and claimed a compartment near the middle of the train. Lily promised to search for her, after trailing behind to locate Severus. Finding the boy was important to Lily, so Taylor did not dispute the plan. In the event Lily did find her friend, Taylor saved a seat for her plus one. Gingerly, she nestled in a seat near the window. Next year, I won't have to worry about ghost dogs or criminals. Well, not murderers anyway. I will be able to focus on my studies. Thoughts skated across her mind like dragonflies. Pressing her face against the cool glass, she blocked out the ambient noises.

The compartment door slid open, jolting Taylor back into reality. It's about time. The train will be pulling out of station any moment now. Much to her dissatisfaction,Regulus Black entered the sanctuary followed by a devoted troop. Slightly disappointed by the lack of audience, he peered around the room until his eyes fell on the lonely girl near the window.

"Blast it, the mudblood isn't here yet?" Regulus feathered back his hair bombastically. "We wanted to extend a warm pureblooded sendoff to the little munter." Taylor's face grew red with rage.

"Get out of here! You and your disgusting bigoted posse aren't welcomed."

Menacingly, Mulciber closed the compartment door behind them. "I wouldn't mind knocking around a scumsucker, Regulus. The warm up might do us some good." The bronzy haired boy narrowed his eyes at Taylor. From behind, a girl alluringly wrapped her arms around Mulciber's neck. Her pacific blue eyes jealously studied every feature of their victim's face. Taylor felt her stomach churn with irascibility. She recognized the temptress with dark strawberry-blonde hair; Creusa Greengrass, one of her bunkmates.

"Easy now, Balthasar." As Creusa whispered, she gently grazed her lips across Mulciber's ear. "Taylor's the regular heroine now. Killing dark wizards and freeing up space for a new Defense teacher is taxing work you know." An unfamiliar boy at the rear of the group chuckled darkly.

Defensively, Taylor pointed her wand at the intruders. Four against one. This should be a show. "I'm warning you."

"Do you even really know how to use that?" Mulciber shrugged Creusa from his shoulders in annoyance. The young Slytherin girl pouted at the boldfaced rejection.

Regulus smiled and advanced toward Taylor just enough, so the tip of her wand touched his chest. "What are you going to do? Stab me with it?"

You sick son of a bitch. If I could get away with it, I just might. How do they even know about what happened? Where the hell is Lily? A little backup would be great. Gutsy and eager, Regulus moved to grab the wand from Taylor's hand. Instinctually, she kicked him in the groin. She made a break for the compartment door, but Mulciber ruthlessly grabbed Taylor by the hair, drew his wand, and pointed it in her face. For a moment, she considered blasting Mulciber through the compartment window, but knew logically Creusa would hurry to his defense and send her careening after him.

"You mudwallowing bint. Can't even defend yourself with magic?" The mysterious boy snapped from the corner. As the train jerked to life, Regulus staggered to his feet.

"What an ugly word: Bint. No need to be so vulgar, Selwyn." Creusa chided humorously.

Mulciber twisted Taylor around toward the recovering Regulus. She growled angrily. "And mudblood isn't? You posh— Let me go or else I'll—" The four cackled in unison and Taylor felt the threat shrivel on the tip of her tongue. Intrigued, Regulus leaned in closer to her face.

"Oh no, I would really like to know all of my options." He tapped her cheek with his wand.

The compartment slid open, revealing the long awaited reinforcements. Reinforcements influenced the tides of the Battle of Waterloo. With her back to the open doorway stood Lily, who was unwillingly followed by James, Sirius, Peter, and Remus. I never thought I would be so happy to see so many Gryffindors.

"Come on Evans, Gryffindors stick together! We can all share a compartment together, just like we did in the beginning of the year." James pleaded. The tension in the room diverted Lily's exasperated comeback to the harassment. She turned toward the scene of Slytherins. Noticing Taylor's predicament, the Gryffindor girl courageously pressed forward.

Lily's mouth gaped open in disgust. "What's the meaning of this?"

"Ah, what a stunning entrance by the little witch we have all been waiting for." Sirius's face whitened at the sound of his brother's voice. Blatantly, Regulus pointed his wand at Lily.

Puffed up like a bullfrog, James courageously stood in front of the Slytherin boy's target. "What's your problem, mate?"

As Regulus drew closer, his wand barely touched the tip of James's nose. Peter and Sirius both pulled out their wands as the surrounding enemy pulled out theirs. Even Remus, anxious for the safety of his sister, drew his wand and aimed at Mulciber.

"I planned on giving your girlfriend a proper Hogwarts parting gift." Lily scoffed at the word girlfriend. "Maybe she'll think before clouding up the school with her dirty presence next year."

"Maybe you'd do us all a favor and get your own stink out of our compartment." James growled.

Unexpectedly, Remus released a jet of sparks which blasted Mulciber off of his sister. His ragdoll body was sent spiraling, until he connected with the window and fell to the floor disorientated. Creusa squealed and rushed to Mulciber's aide. Distracted by the assault, Regulus turned to smash Remus through the neighboring compartment, only to be blasted uncompromisingly toward the ceiling by Taylor.

James pointed his wand at Selwyn, who slowly rounded on Regulus's attacker. "Don't try it mate. They've done what I've wanted to do all year."

"You'll pay for that." Regulus snarled, as he got to his feet. He angrily moved for the door and turned his attention to Sirius. "Mother's going to love hearing all about your exploits as a Gryffindor. Treading the fine line of blood traitor, dear brother."

Holding his head, Mulciber sneered, pushed Creusa's fawning figure off, and followed Regulus. Creusa paused at the door, allowing Selwyn to file out first. Leaving a wide girth between her and the infectious Lily, she glared at Remus savagely. An unspoken animosity brewed between the two, before the Slytherin girl addressed Taylor.

"See you next year, Taylor." Their eyes connected and Taylor felt momentarily intimidated. So much for sleeping soundly next term. Sirius muttered a few swear words and sat down on the seat. Remus looked his sister over, once Creusa departed the scene.

"Are you hurt?" He asked. Taylor shook her head and watched Lily closed the door.

"I'm fine. Lily, are you—"

"Those Slytherins have some nerve. What were they going on about anyway?" Lily pulled Taylor onto the seat, completely unbothered by the uninvited boys.

Seizing the opportunity, the Gryffindors settled into a quiet contentment. When the food trolley passed by with snacks, James treated everyone to a round of Chocolate Frogs and flasks of pumpkin juice. Lily took it with hesitation, but thanked the troublemaker all the same. Sticking up for her was heartwarming her a bit, but she remained skeptical of his intentions. When the train was within minutes of the station, James stuck out his chest and looked around the compartment.

"Right, so who wants my address? You know, to send letters by post. Unless you all have hidden owls in your luggage." After a hanging silence, James wrinkled his nose. "Come on! I know you want it!" He waved a piece of paper vigorously in the air, in hopes the act would persuade the group. Remus was the first to concede. "There's a good mate."

James handed the scribble over to the timid boy, who passed it delicately to Taylor. Observantly, Taylor turned the note over in her hands.

52 Atterbury Avenue
Leighton Buzzard, UK.

Fair play required Remus to jot his own address down onto paper. "You can reach Taylor and me at this address. It would be great to hear from you."

"I knew you two were related." Sirius shook a finger at Remus, who blushed with shame. Taylor patted him on the back to reassure him of her loyalties.

Despite James's persistence, Lily did not give her information to the boys. Taylor had it already. While this fact disappointed James, he was even more distraught when Sirius refused to contribute.

"We don't receive the Muggle post." Sirius explained. "My mother also does not like the intrusion of owls. I'll be spending this summer in solitude."

The train pulled to a stop just as Peter finished sharing his information. It took a while for the group to exit the train and hop onto platform nine and three-quarters. An elderly guard perched near the ticket barrier, allowing the students to go through the gate in pairs. Too many wizards bursting through the barrier at once would arouse suspicion and alarm the Muggle population. Waiting for her turn in line, Taylor gave Lily a brief hug and promised to write consistently. Back into the nonmagical world, Taylor waved goodbye to her good friend and began to roll her luggage along in search of the Lupins. Remus followed closely behind, careful not to lose his sister in the congregation.

"Taylor!" A familiar voice called out to the preoccupied girl. Remus nudged his sister, who turned to see Fionn approaching. "Could I talk to you?" Noticing Remus, he added. "Alone?"

Slightly affronted by the need for secrecy, Remus folded his arms. Another Slytherin could only mean more trouble. Taylor, however, was ecstatic to see Fionn.

"Could we have a minute? I'll catch up to you." Reluctantly, Remus pushed his luggage off in search.

Taylor sidestepped away from a passing triad of Muggles. "Is everything alright?"

"Yeah. I wanted to thank you for being a good friend. You could have left me for that necromancer."

"You don't have to thank me for that. I know you would have done the same for me." Taylor was taken aback by the sentiments.

"It needed to be said." Fionn shrugged callously. "I meant to tell you sooner. Now that it is, we can both enjoy our vacations, I suppose."

"Will you write to me over the summer then?" The question caught Fionn off guard. Taylor reached into her coat pocket, pulled out an extra scrap of paper, and wrote her address down. "Here. If you feel up to it."

"I can write occasionally." Fionn smiled considerately. I would hug him if he'd let me.

Instead of hugging, Taylor merely smiled and wished Fionn a delightful summer. Then, grabbing her trunks, she hurried off after her brother. In the distance, Taylor could see Remus embracing his mother and father. They would be delighted to see her as well, but a somber feeling washed over her. Would my father be as proud of me—

"Hey Taylor! Come on!" Remus shouted over the crowd. The girl shook her head and grinned. Why should I bother with those thoughts? I have a family and friends who care about me. People who won't abandon me.Taylor rushed toward the Lupins, who showered her with affection. In no time, they were back at home. The small intimate house was the same as she remembered. Three rooms, a single bathroom, a small kitchen, and a miniature living room all snuggled into a narrow two-story townhouse. The houseplants were luscious and the rooms all properly dusted. Every possession Taylor left behind was contingent with the way she had left it. Hestia had diligently protected the hearth, architecture, and ordering of domesticity.

It was strange to be in a house, after so many months of living in a castle. Hogwarts really became more then I had expected it to be. Despite the constant fear of death.

After dropping her belongings in her room, Taylor walked down the hall to chat with Remus. Taking in all features of the long forgotten house, she paused to study the portraits on the walls. One painting in particular, which she had never noticed before, caught her interest. A moonlit scene of the English countryside, separated by a gently flowing stream. Emerging from the left, a gnarled autumn tree stretched across the forefront, casting deeper shadows over a lounging young couple. On a branch, wings spread, roosted an ivory white raven with burning red eyes.

"Too bad they don't talk." Startled, Taylor jumped back. Remus steadied his sister and hastily apologized for frightening her. "Mum found this one in a sale over the winter holiday. She said it reminded her of the day she met dad."

"That's sweet." Taylor murmured distantly. Hesitantly, she looked back at the painting. The branches of the tree were completely empty. There was— I know I saw the white raven. Clear as day!

In the mayhem of disembarking, Sirius considered melding into the crowded platform before his family could claim him. Unfortunately, even as he exited through the barrier, saluting a final farewell to James, he spotted his mother on the outskirts of the crowd. Dripping in lace, the elegant witch oozed aristocracy. A delicate parasol shaded her pale face and shadowy Victorian dress. Despite the impending summer heat, she brazenly sported a fashionable black fur stole. All of the other parents, eager to collect their children, chose to wear modern apparel for the joyous occasion. Walburga Black, however, behaved like a tragic historical reenactor destined to attend a funeral. Desperately, Sirius wished his family, especially his mother, would evolve to match the times.

"We are more than halfway through the twentieth century for Christ's sake." Sirius growled through clenched teeth.

Obedient and defenseless, her prey meandered within range. An affectionate greeting was not a likely outcome. Walburga Black, flushed and fatigued from the heat, swiftly delivered a customary, venomous bite.

"Dragging your feet will not make this any easier, Sirius. Your father and I are furious."

Sirius chose not to reply, knowing any retort would earn him some short-sighted punishment. The atmosphere became nearly intolerable once Regulus joined the reunion. Mother and son exchanged long overdue pleasantries, while Sirius counted and recounted the windows in the station. After tallying one hundred and fifty-eight panels, the small familial group merged into the funneling throng. Upon exiting King's Cross Station, Mrs. Black emerged onto the bustling London street and approached an elegant Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman. A chauffer, complete with suit and tie, opened the chrome door for the lady. She folded her umbrella and entered the vehicle, followed by Regulus and Sirius. Though sitting next to his mother was inherently unpleasant, travelling within her line of vision would put Sirius in conversational peril. Quietly, he took in the comforts of the luxurious car, and marveled in mute surprise that his mother would ever allow a nonmagical device to transport them home. Walburga placed her hands in her lap, while Sirius waited for the blitzkrieg of blame and guilt to commence.

"Peculiar choice in transportation, mother." Regulus broke the silence. In emphasis, he stroked the velvet upholstery.

"Don't become partial to it. This excuse for elite transportation was given to us by the Ministry. A gift, can you imagine? For their wealthy patrons! I am highly insulted by gesture. How can anyone be expected to enjoy such slow and tedious travel?" The woman paused raving to fix her hair. "Your father wants us to use this mass of metal several times before donating it to some cause. Practical appeasement mixed with charity to show our family's humbled nature. I refuse to have it any longer than a week."

Regulus was already bored by his mother's chatter. The car's role in societal politics meant nothing to either of the boys. Before Walburga could continue, Regulus changed the subject. "When we arrive will you have Kreacher prepare dinner? Travelling has work up my appetite."

"We planned on a sweet glazed, stuffed goose with roasted potatoes. The servants should have the majority finished upon our return."

Hearing his mother describe the food nauseated Sirius. Appetite destroyed, Sirius could only look forward to the fleeting cityscape. His brother and mother lingered between discussions, until signs for Borough of Islington signaled the end of an uncomfortable journey. The chauffer pulled into a quaint muggle neighborhood and parked in front of the invisible, ancient household between buildings Number 11 and Number 13. For decades, neighboring residents, local Muggles in particular, merely accepted the mistake in numbering, unaware of the wizarding family thriving in secrecy beyond the constructs of space. By mistake, Sirius chose to tune back into the conversation.

"It is absolutely dreadful to imagine, that his fate has been defectively chosen by an artless hat. Traditionally, you know, all members of our family are sorted into Slytherin house. I shall have to have a word with the headmaster before Sirius returns next year."

"I like being a Gryffindor!" Immediately, Sirius regretted his injection. Walburga Black rounded mercilessly on her child.

"Like that then? You expect me to turn a blind eye to my son's future!? Those Gryffindors are nothing but trouble. Look at the misfortune they dragged my son into! Your corpse could have been lost forever down in those tunnels."

"For the record, I followed Slytherins down—" Sirius tried to defend his position; he hated above all else, when his mother referred to him as my son. The woman, however, was guiltlessly relentless in her verbal bludgeoning.

"Do you enjoy ripping my heart to pieces?"

The car door opened, but the timing could not save Sirius from the temptation of a sarcastic remark.

"You have to have a heart, for someone to rip it to pieces."

Resisting entrapment, Regulus roughly pushed his brother out of the car onto the street curb. "You really do know how to ruin a homecoming, Sirius."

A house elf with a bulbous, snout-like nose and bat-like ears stared down at the boy. Its bloodshot eyes blinked in dismay at the feuding siblings. The small humanoid creature held the car door steady, as Regulus exited the vehicle. In an attempt to soften Sirius's insult, Regulus held his hand out for the distraught woman in the car. Once freed from the confines of the muggle automobile, Walburga marched directly to the front door.

"Carry the luggage inside, Kreacher." She ordered bitterly. The matriarch disappeared into the depths of the household followed by the preferred offspring.

Kreacher watched his mistress longingly, before moving toward his emanate task in the trunk of the car.

"I got mine." Sirius mumbled, stumbling to his feet.

Despite the callous dismissal, the house elf proceeded to fuss about the young master's school trunk. Unable to contain the frustration, Sirius shoved Kreacher away from his belongings. "Listen you grotty, little troll. I said I'd take care of my own things, thanks."

"Of course Master. Kreacher lives only to serve the noble house of Black."

The house elf's face twisted into a rehearsed smile. Without complaint, Kreacher turned to handle the remaining packages, allowing Sirius to hoist his trunk clumsily up the stairs. He would skip dinner, though Sirius did not expect the rest of the family to protest. Yanking open his bedroom door, the boy paused before dramatically slamming it closed. The noise prompted a jarring howl from the kraken below, who disparaged her black sheep son's unnecessary temperament. Satisfied, Sirius reacquainted himself with his childhood chambers. Posters of motorcycles were still pinned haphazardly about the room where he had left them months before.

"The old reliable, irreversible sticking charm. Pity those weren't on my exams." The young boy sighed and sprawled out on his dusty bed. "Only a few months. A few months with these people and then you can go home." To calm his nerves, Sirius rested cool hands on his eye sockets. Hhhhhhhhhhh! Hhhhh!

A muffled clamor captured Sirius's attention. Hhhhhhh! Hhhhllllllll! Confused by the incessant murmur, he followed the sound for an origin. An unmistakable "Hey!" reverberated from the unpacked luggage case. Opening the suitcase, Sirius peered cautiously into his belongings. Atop his disheveled uniforms was an antique handheld mirror. More startling was the voice emanating from the speculum.

"Cor blimey, I thought you'd never unpack!" James's bright hazel eyes gleamed excitedly.

"A two-way mirror? You're brilliant."

His friend gluttonously devoured the flattery. "Of course I'm bloody brilliant. Test scores won't prove otherwise either. You've got to be daft to think I'd let my best mate spend the whole summer alone."

With a surge of energy and hope, Sirius grinned and pulled his luggage toward the bed. "This is great. I have a surprise for you. Maybe this is too soon—I was going to work on it over the summer. I knicked it from Professor Greer's office before anyone would notice. It's unfinished, but this is going to make our next six years at Hogwarts perfect."

"Well go on then, will you? Don't hold me in suspense like that." James curiously squinted into the reflective surface.

Sirius placed the two-way mirror upon his pillow, sifted through his school trunk, and procured a folded sheet of parchment. Eagerly, the boy unfolded the wings of the enigmatic leaflet and held it near the looking glass. Charcoal and ink splattered across the clean sheets of parchment, revealing patterns and labyrinthine networks. An incomplete outline for their potential mischief.

Author's Note: A personal thank you to those who followed the story, reviewed my writing, and took interest in its progression. Although I write primarily for myself, there is a great feeling in sharing my thoughts with others. If you enjoyed this fanfiction, please pass it along through Harry Potter communities. I'd really appreciate that. As a final disclaimer, I would like to state: I do not own the Harry Potter series. I have taken creative license with J.K. Rowling's original stories. While much remains true to the books, there were several purposeful changes. Thank you for your support along the way and I hope you are looking forward to the next installment in the series.

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