Seth Lile Éibear Potter-Lambert stared at the brick wall that was the magical passage to Platform 9¾. He found it hard to believe that wall was not as solid as it looked. Slanting a glance at his dad, he found the same deep lines of misgiving etched in his face.
“After how many hundreds of years of wizardry, you’d think they’d have something less traumatizing than a wall for an entry,” he finally muttered, fiddling nervously with the fox tail hanging from a belt loop on his jeans. His dad had given it to him only yesterday, ‘for luck.’ He was starting to think he’d need it.
His dad grinned down at him. “It’s tradition, Little Chaos. Ready?”
Seth made a face, but he nodded and grabbed his hand, because he might’ve been brave but it was still a brick wall. His dad paused for a second as if bracing himself, squeezed Seth’s hand, and strolled with a determined casualness toward their destination.
The wall proved to be a lot less solid than its appearance suggested. He felt the barest whisper of…something as they were passing through and then they were on the other side. He exchanged a look with his dad before staring back at the wall. It looked as firm as it ever had. Making a snap decision, he stuck his hand back through and wiggled his fingers.
His dad snorted with amusement. “Well I’ll be damned.”
“Coin jar,” was all Seth said, still preoccupied with the wall. He looked at his fingers. They seemed all right to him, all put together and in one piece. It still unsettled him though. Had the wall demolecularized or had he? He didn’t like the idea of his atoms being strewn all over the place, not in one piece. Uncle Neil and his lengthy commentary on Seth’s favorite sci-fi films had left him suspicious of anything like this.
There was a chuckle. “‘Damn,’ or any variant, does not count or we both owe that jar more cash than I have on hand. C’mon, Little Chaos, let’s get you on that train. Looks impressive. Harry didn’t do it justice.”
“I guess,” Seth grumbled. He was a little put out. The coin jar collected money for family vacations, and he was angling for Australia again. Finally, he turned from the wall to inspect the train. It was bright red and looked like it came straight out of the last century, from the design of the box cars to the luggage trolleys being pushed along the pavement. The only tipoff that they hadn’t stepped into the past were a bunch of wizards and witches bustling back and forth in front of it with distinctly creative styles of fashion. The bright cloaks and flowing robes Seth was used to, having traveled around the world most of his life, but why would anyone pin a dead bird to their hat anyway? Even his dad didn’t do that, and he was pretty sure he had worn just about everything.
A solid, warm hand rested on his shoulder, causing him to look up into bright blue eyes, the exact same shade as his sister’s. “You sure about this, Seth? You don’t have to go through with it. Sin’s attending Anasazi—”
Seth shook off the hand. “No, I want to go to Hogwarts. I’ll be fine, dad.”
“First days just suck,” he sighed a little. “I’m going to miss you, Little Chaos.” And the hand was back, this time wrapping around his shoulders and tugging him against his dad’s solid weight.
“I’ll be fine,” he insisted, resting against him anyway. He wouldn’t see either of his dads or his sister for months. They’d only get to write each other. That was one thing that would have been better about going to Anasazi instead of Hogwarts. Sin would get to call or even visit back home in LA, but Seth was stuck. “Anasazi Academy is nice enough, but Sin wants to work with computers, exchange over to MIT or something. Hogwarts has the best instruction in half a dozen magical studies.”
“I know,” he said. He ruffled Seth’s hair. “You’ll like it.”
“Dad hates it,” he muttered in return, the doubts edging close in his mind despite his determination.
“Is,” Seth insisted.
“A famous war hero,” he continued on blithely. “You’re not going in expected to save the world like he did.”
“But I’m going in famous,” he pointed out, shuffling nervously. “You and dad both are, at least here, and even the wizarding world’s taken to you, like the rest of the world. You only got back from the magical leg of your tour a few months ago.”
“And,” his dad continued firmly, ignoring his whine, “You’re not going in without any family.” He knelt down in front of him, brushing black hair out of his face. “Seth, if you don’t like it, if there are problems, if you want to come home or change schools or whatever it is, we’re not going to leave you stranded here. You get to try something new, but you’re not going to be forced to stick to it. We’re a letter or a call away. Got it?”
Seth made a face, “Not a call. But yeah. I don’t want to chicken out.”
“Strategic retreats are not chickening out,” he insisted firmly. He tugged on the fox tail. “Trust me, I know.”
“The public eye, blah, blah.” Seth rolled his eyes.
“Actually, I was thinking of your dad. We’ve been married for seven years. I’ve learned a few things.”
“Dad!” He yelped. “Ew!”
His dad winked and laughed. “And people bitch about my mind being in the gutter? God.”
“Brat.” He reached up and ruffled his hair. “You okay, Little Chaos?”
“I’ll be fine,” he nodded as the train whistled. “We better get moving, right?”
“Right.” He straightened with a little sigh. “If only we could keep you young and annoying forever.”
Seth grumbled. “I don’t have any luggage. Everyone will find that weird.”
“You have plenty of luggage, all shrunken in your pocket,” his dad replied. He was much too calm about all this in Seth’s opinion.
“I wish father were here,” he said finally, put out he wasn’t getting any panicked reaction in return.
“What, because I’m not good enough?” He teased, ruffling Seth’s hair again. “You know he would have been, but he’s been involved in the New Harmony Conference.”
“I thought he would’ve wanted to visit with everyone.”
“There’s been some complications on who’s invited to the conference, or what they’re doing there, or something along that vein,” his dad shrugged one shoulder. “It’s the first serious meeting between magical officials and muggle officials since that fiasco of a committee after the war. So Harry’s dealing with that, and RCA wanted me to meet a few people in London ‘soonish.’”
“The ever-busy lives of Harry Potter and Adam Lambert,” Seth pouted.
“Something like,” he laughed. His dad ran a hand through his black hair and eyed the train with a wistful look in his eyes. “Alright. I don’t suppose you want me to come with you?”
Seth glared. “No! No way!”
He sighed, “I just hate that you’re growing up so fast.”
“Da-ad,” he whined. He shook raven-black locks out of his face. “I’ll be fine. I’ll write tonight, and we’ll see each other at the holidays.”
He pulled Seth into a tight hug, lifting him off his feet, his bracelets, necklaces and rings biting into Seth’s skin in the familiar bear hug of his dad. “I wish you could take a fucking phone with you, god.”
“Coin—” Seth started, muffled against his dad’s shoulder.
“Jar,” he finished. “Brat.”
He grinned when he set him down. “Australia.”
“You better write the moment you get there,” he said sternly, but smiling slightly.
“I’ll write after dinner anyway. From what dad said, I don’t think we can get to the owlery before. Anyway, then I can tell you my House and everything.” He half shrugged, a gesture his dad was mirroring even as he said it.
“Who gives a crap about houses? It’s just rivalry.” He shook his head. “Don’t worry about that.”
“I’m not worried,” he protested. He really wasn’t. He didn’t much care about the Houses sorting thing either. Besides, ever since attending Hogwarts came up his dads joked he had too much personality to be Sorted at all.
“Better get on the train, Little Chaos. If we push it any longer they really will take off without you. Not that I have any objections to that.” He nudged him toward the door even as the last kids clambered into various cars.
Seth gave him one last quick hug. “You’re not supposed to get all weepy on me, dad,” he informed him firmly, not willing to admit he was glad he was getting emotional. “You’re the adult, remember?”
“Get upset.” He stuck his tongue out. They’d had that conversation a few times, usually after someone blew up at a nosy reporter or too pushy fan.
“Right,” he smiled. “Get on the train before I change my mind.”
Seth clambered on, deciding not to look back, because he was going to miss home enough and he didn’t want to lose his nerve.
“And don’t forget to write!” His dad called after his vanishing form.
Seth waved a hand out the door, letting him know he’d heard. Of course he’d write. Sin made him swear up and down all last night that he would, and she wasn’t someone he’d cross in a hurry. Anyway, he had to make sure both his dads coughed up to the coin jar.
----------The first thing Seth did when he stepped off the gently rocking rowboat onto Hogwarts’ grounds was greet the castle.
He fell behind the nervous group of first years as Hagrid led the troop of new students through the underbelly of the castle. He’d stopped to rest his hand wonderingly against the first stone to come within reach: one of the cavern’s shadowed columns along the docking shore, fifth stone from the bottom, just at shoulder height.
He tentatively reached out with his mind, brushing against the layers of magic as his fingers pressed lightly against the cool rock. “Hello,” he murmured, knowing full well it probably wouldn’t work. He had to try. The castle was an old friend of his father’s, Seth knew it from the way his father talked about it – her. Hogwarts had been his father’s second home. Seth had never quite understood why, only that it was truth of the matter.
He felt a deep, reverberating hum in his bones, a greeting full of the crushing strength of mountains and the warmth of the sun on a summer day on the countless sandy beaches of California. It was a hug, he realized with dawning excitement, one he felt from the roots of his obedient black hair to the tips of his boot-clad toes.
“Seth Potter, yer fallin’ behind,” Hagrid’s voiced boomed from the depths of the central of five hallways. “C’mon quick ter catch up.” Seth brushed the stone once more before dashing off.
Suddenly he was not so worried about being in a new castle, with his family and friends across the world. While at Hogwarts, Seth was home.
Colette Bones, one of the girls he’d shared a car with on the train, was waiting near the back as he caught up.
“Putting off getting Sorted?” She asked, tucking long, dirty-blond strands of hair behind her ears.
He shook his head mutely, not wanting to share his brief connection with the castle. It felt too personal for that.
“You probably want to be in Gryffindor, right?” She went on as they trotted down the cool corridors. “Mum wants me to be in Hufflepuff, but I don’t think I will be. She is always saying if dad were a wizard he’d be in Slytherin, and I’m a lot like my dad. Mum says she won’t be disappointed if I’m not in her old House, but… What about you? You’re a Potter. Didn’t Drianna say you can count the Potters back nine centuries?”
“I’m also a Lambert,” Seth muttered quickly, interrupting her mile-a-minute chatter. “And my dads don’t care where I end up.”
It was just nerves, his sudden overwhelming feeling of impending doom, he was sure of it as they entered the entrance hall and stood, waiting in silence. He made his way through the group until he ended up behind Maria Longbottom, the first student he met on the train and an old friend of sorts. It was only a few minutes before a teacher came to collect them, but it felt an eternity.
Maria waved discreetly at Seth’s “Uncle” Nev, her dad and also Professor Longbottom, Head of Gryffindor. He was Hogwarts’ best Herbology teacher in a hundred years.
“Hullo,” Neville smiled kindly at them all, as if his smile could reassure their collectively unsettled nerves. “I’m Professor Longbottom. Welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We’re about to head into the Great Hall so the lot of you can be Sorted into one of Hogwarts’ four illustrious Houses. It’s nothing to worry over. You’ll settle in with friends and work to do your House proud with good grades and better behaviour, right?”
Seth’s mouth twisted in a frown as he tuned his new professor out, much like he did when Uncle Nev got excited and technical about one of his plants. He was pretty sure his father mentioned something about the Houses being described a bit more. He was also pretty sure he was going to mess this up. Royally. Sin did well on pop quizzes. Seth sucked at them about as much as anyone could. He was notorious for it. Both his dads had reassured him this wasn’t a test, but it suddenly felt like one. He bit back a sigh as Uncle Nev finished his speech and the large double doors silently swung open. He trailed after Maria into the long hall. At least he knew a few students in the group.
He’d made friends with Drianna Zabini and Collette on the train too, after he’d found Maria in one of the cars. They seemed nice enough and knowing even that little amount of friendly support was with him in this line of first-years boosted him enough to shove back his nerves and look around.
A grubby hat sat on a stool, the Sorting Hat. It was the first thing he noticed, eyes drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Past the stool sat a long table with a row of teachers sitting along it. The strict, well-groomed woman with graying brown hair in the center had to be Headmistress McGonagall. He looked over the others curiously before the hat started talking.
Seth knew it was imbued with complex spells from everything his father had told him about it. Both of his parents had thought it would be a good idea to start training him and Sin long before it came time for anything like a proper wizarding school. He had a lot of useless information about magical theory floating in his brain, including items that talked. Talking objects either meant a simple mindless chattering on the part of the enchanted item – a basic and useless enough spell from what Seth could figure out – or a truly dangerous form of magic that let the object think. If an object could think, it meant that it was imbued with a person’s magic or even his soul. In Seth’s book, that added up to equal both stupid and dangerous.
But he’d grown up on his dads’ bedtime stories, half of them from his father’s childhood. For three years he’d secretly worried one of the journals his dad used to write music in would become an evil soul-sucking monster from another dimension. Sin, Seth knew, had a special abhorrence of both of their dads' more ornate rings. His dads’ bedtime stories were convincing. But that was something he was “definitely not allowed to talk about” to anyone outside the family. It was off the list for Hogwarts for sure. Kids weren’t supposed to know about magic like Horcruxes.
He chewed his lip nervously as the students were alphabetically called up to the stool so the hat could be placed on their heads. He’d completely tuned out the Hat’s opening words.
He wondered what would happen when his name was –
“Seth Potter-Lambert,” Neville called out from beside the stool.
Silence rippled out across the room, starting from Neville’s spot at the stool to wash out and over into every corner. Everyone, Seth was sure it was everyone, craned around to look along the line of still unsorted students. A whisper started up as he reluctantly moved forward. Uncle Neville was staring at him with an amused expression.
Seth hiked himself onto the stool and stared defiantly around the room at the whispering audience. Yes he was Seth Potter-Lambert, son to the two most annoyingly famous men in the entire world, and he wasn’t afraid to wear it loud and proud, as his dad said. He was sure they were staring at him because of his parents; otherwise the students wouldn’t know him from Adam. He smiled wryly at the pun.
Neville dropped the grubby hat onto Seth’s head. It fell down and over his eyes and nose, obscuring the room from his glare.
So this is one of the young Potter brood. The hat whispered words into his mind. Seth’s fingers dug into his knees.
I don’t like things poking around in my head, he informed the presence pointedly. He thought about practicing at his Occlumency skills, like his father was always urging him to. The hat chuckled.
Occlumency, a certainly valuable ability to possess, will do little to guard against me. You have nothing to fear, I am only here to place you, Mr. Potter-Lambert.
And how d’you do that then? Seth demanded, fingers still digging in his knees, wrinkling the black robe he’d put on with the others on the train.
The hat seemed puzzled and a little surprised at the question. Not many think to ask. I perceive your dominant traits and place you where you will do best. You are a tricky one, trickier than your father.
The hat sounded almost excited, Seth thought. And what did he mean about his dad?
Oh yes, your father could have done quite well in more than one place. You, however, where do I place you, Seth Lile Éibear Potter-Lambert?
“Hey!” Seth spoke aloud, indignantly, “Nobody but my dads calls me that!” There was a mutter Seth barely noticed throughout the hall. Uncle Nev rested a hand briefly on his shoulder before it fell away.
Hmm. The hat took no notice. I would greatly enjoy meeting your sister. If she is as unusual as you… I haven’t had this experience in well over one hundred years. It comes barely once a generation, you realize.
Was the hat laughing at him? What comes once a generation? Seth asked, impatient and annoyed. Would you Sort me already? I’ve drawn enough attention from everyone else here to last me a lifetime, thanks.
The hat chuckled again. I’m afraid you will draw attention all your life, child. Gryffindor is for the brave, Hufflepuff for the patient, Ravenclaw for the clever, and Slytherin for the ambitious. Have you a preference?
I know that. And I think those are some pretty broad “traits,” Seth rolled his eyes, forgetting the hat couldn’t really see him. He added with a pleased grin, And I’m all those things.
If Seth could have explained the way the hat felt next, he would have said it was smug. So be it. It opened its brim-mouth and spoke aloud, “Sparklypoo.”
Seth waited a full minute. So did the rest of the room, or at least it felt like it. Finally he snapped out, “What’s that supposed to mean?” The hat remained silent, both in his mind and to the rest of the world. Seth whipped the hat off and shoved it at Uncle Neville, far from amused, hopping off the stool. “That’s crazy. Uncle—Professor Longbottom, what does that mean? That’s not even a House!”
Neville was staring at him with shock and confusion. Seth saw he would get no quarter there. He looked uneasily across the four long tables of students. They were staring uncertainly at him and muttering to each other. He twisted to look along the teacher’s table. There was hurried discussion going on between McGonagall and the two professors at her sides. Others passed along comments to each other as their eyes trained on him.
Neville rested a hand on his shoulder, making him jump. “Come on, Seth,” he murmured quietly. “Go sit at one of the tables. The headmistress will want to speak with you after. No use worrying until then.”
“Uncle Nev,” Seth muttered quietly.
“It’ll be okay.” Neville nudged him toward the four student tables. “Go on.”
Seth glanced along the teacher’s table again. McGonagall nodded at him, acknowledging and encouraging all at the same time. He tried to shrug off the stares as he sought out Maria in Ravenclaw. He heard Neville speak softly to himself, “Of course it had to be Harry’s and Adam’s son. Merlin.”
Seth made a face. Maybe he could blame this on his parents.
----------McGonagall peered at him over her sharp rectangular glasses. The large desk of the headmistress sat heavy between the two of them. She had dismissed Uncle Neville, leaving only the two of them and a few dozen rustling portraits in the room.
Seth shifted uncomfortably. There was an air of Aunt Hermione about the headmistress, only somehow stricter.
After awhile she spoke. “There hasn’t been a Sparklypoo sorting since before Albus Dumbledore was the headmaster of these halls.”
Seth wondered if that was supposed to mean something to him. He resisted the urge to cross his legs lotus-position in his seat on the large, straight-backed chair.
McGonagall sighed. Her fingers fluttered quickly along the seam of one sleeve on her velvet emerald robe. “Mr. Potter-Lambert, to be sorted into Sparklypoo, and not one of the four Houses, means you are a member of all four Houses. You are equally a member of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. As perhaps you may imagine, this causes a slight issue with logistics.”
“Where do I sleep, you mean?” Seth sighed. “And this never happens, right?” If he’d had any notion to keep a low profile, his Sorting experience and this meeting blew that scheme straight out of the water.
McGonagall gave a small huff of amusement. “I haven’t the slightest doubt you would stand out no matter your House or the … normalcy of your situation. However with Mr. Potter in the thick of Harmony Conference, bringing politicians from both worlds to create some…”
“Harmony?” Seth offered with a grin.
McGonagall’s lips twitched. “...harmony and concerted efforts between the magical and muggle communities… I suspect you are in for more scrutiny than you expect.”
“You mean everyone will want to know what’s in it for father so they’ll look at me and Sin and dad,” he translated. “Especially the isolationists. They’ve always bothered us.” Especially since Adam, a full-on muggle, dipped his toes in the magical world, creating a name for himself in the magical music industry.
“Certain parties in the wizarding world are not thrilled with current political trends,” McGonagall noted. “Trends Mr. Potter had a hand in creating and continues to have an influence over, true enough.” She eyed him thoughtfully. “You may not like to hear it, Mr. Potter-Lambert, but there’s much of your father—Harry—in you.”
“I got his eyes,” Seth said. “But actually everyone says I’m like my dad—I mean, my other dad, Adam—most of all.”
McGonagall smiled briefly. “Ah, I see. If it is not too rude, may I ask how you differentiate between—”
Seth interrupted, used to and tired of this particular question. “My dads look quite a bit different, actually. It’s easy to tell them apart.” Only after did he realize he’d interrupted her. “Sorry, ma’am.”
“Impertinent. You may call me Headmistress or Professor McGonagall, Mr. Potter-Lambert. You quite well know my intended question, I assume.”
His nose scrunched. So the headmistress of Hogwarts wasn’t as easily unsettled as his previous teachers. “They’re both just dad to me, and to them too. When talking about my dads to others though, Sin and me call Adam ‘dad’ and Harry ‘father,’ and people follow along pretty quickly without having to explain all the time. Or we just call them Adam and Harry. We’re all fine with any of that.”
McGonagall nodded thoughtfully. “It must be a problem you’ve dealt with many times, being in the public eye a great deal.” When he didn’t comment she moved on. “Well. You certainly have Harry’s penchant for setting new standards.”
“Being weird,” Seth corrected. “Er. Ma’am, Headmistress.”
Her eyebrow arched up. “That is one way of looking at it. Not the way I would view it however.”
Seth half shrugged. “Ye-ah, after awhile it’s all you can call it.”
She sighed a little.
Seth correctly interpreted the sigh. “Oh, don’t worry, ma’am, Headmistress. It’s alright. I’m used to it by now.” He grinned, not realizing the smile was a bit wolfish. He got that from his dad, Adam, too.
McGonagall shook her head. “In any case, you are in an unusual position now, Mr. Potter-Lambert, one we are not fully prepared to handle with ease. Where do you sleep? Which classes do you attend? What prefect and which Head of House shall be your guide and advisor throughout your tenure here? Of course, you are welcome to address and confide in any teacher, but you see there are certain basic difficulties. There are no Sparklypoo students or graduates in residence aside from yourself.
“As well, there is some research to be done on the structure of education for past Sparklypoo sortees. There are certain responsibilities you will bear that your peers will not have to deal with. You will have access to all four Houses’ common rooms, which means knowing and remembering four changing sets of passwords, and exhibiting the wisdom of using your resources responsibly.”
“I don’t need the passwords to all four areas all the time, really. I’ll just pick a House and we can stick with that,” he started.
McGonagall was shaking her head once more and he stopped. “As a Sparklypoo sortee, you are dedicated to all four Houses and we, as your instructors, are obligated to provide you with access and means. As I stated, this will not be a simple transition.” She leveled him with a studying look as his stomach plummeted into his shoes. “For now, until we can ascertain the best course of action, I feel it would be best for you to attend one House’s arranged classes and change your sleeping quarters every quarter year, if this seems reasonable to you. We will of course also consult your parents on the matter.”
“Father might think of something. And Dad’s wicked creative,” Seth said glumly.
“Is there a House you prefer to be assigned to at this point in time, Mr. Potter-Lambert?” She asked gently.
Seth cast about for a second. “Well, Maria’s in Ravenclaw, and we’re practically family. If that’s alright.”
McGonagall nodded. “Professor Longbottom will take you to the Ravenclaw dormitory. I’m sure you would like to get some rest after your long journey.” She stood and Seth followed. “Good evening, Mr. Potter-Lambert.”
“Good evening, Headmistress.” Seth trailed out of the room and down the moving spiral staircase. He was sure Uncle Nev would be waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs.
He wondered if he could still go home. He grimaced slightly. Even his brain labeled it as cowardly. Like hell he’d run away. Sin was probably having the time of her life at Anasazi.
----------“Uh, mate…” Fred dropped into the free seat beside him at the Hufflepuff table. Drianna Zabini glared at him from the other side. One year older than Seth’s own eleven and entirely made up of limbs, freckles, and red hair, Fred’s bright, nosy personality was a great deal closer to his namesake’s than his parents.
“Weasley, back to idiot territory,” Drianna bit out, jerking her head toward the Gryffindors’ table. “We’ve got him for another month. You can chatter his ear off all you want after the hols, we’ve got him until then.”
Fred, Percy’s and Penny’s eldest and only son – and Seth’s favorite cousin – made a rude gesture and promptly ignored her. He dropped a folded Quibbler between them. “Uncle Harry’s closer to Mrs. Longbottom than dad, yeah?” He asked. “Dad still can’t stand her, goes on about mad hatters.”
“Yeah,” he frowned, ignoring the jibe at Aunt Luna and flicking the paper with one black-colored nail. He was flying Hufflepuff colors today, with black fingernails and yellow hair. “So?” He finally prompted as Fred stayed silent.
“The front page is a conspiracy theory. Go on and read it.” The Gryffindor urged him.
Suspecting one Fred’s jokes, he flipped it open with one hand, the other halfway to his mouth with a forkful of eggs. The fork froze for a second before he jammed it in his mouth and chewed rapidly, suddenly reading intently.
The article was congratulating his father on not being persuaded by a bunch of muggle and magical politicians and scientists to combine their worlds in a “transparent and alarmingly bold” attempt to infiltrate the wizarding world. It said his father practically condemned the project to the depths of hell and walked out on the Harmony Conference. And Seth could think of a dozen reasons offhand why that didn’t add up, not least of all his father’s views on hell. He slapped a hand down on the paper in frustration and disgust. Hitting it slightly harder than he meant, he ended up shaking suddenly tingling fingers. Where did this garbage come from? From The Quibbler, of all places, practically run by family?
“I dunno what’s what, but the Prophet’s even worse.” Fred stood after setting a copy of the British wizarding world’s other leading newspaper down. “I don’t think this is going anywhere soon, mate. Dad wrote telling us to batten down the hatches.” He trotted back to his table, ignoring Drianna’s scathing glare.
“The tosser doesn’t know anything,” Drianna muttered. She watched Seth and began riling up even more at his expression. “It’s Harry Potter. Your father isn’t a fool. Obviously something is going on, some new scheme—”
“Stop it, Dri, I’m fine,” he said, scanning through the Prophet article.
After a moment of silence she prompted, “Well? What does it say?”
“It says my father made a scene walking out on the Harmony Conference after the muggle delegation insisted on precautionary security measures.” He chewed on his lip. “The Quibbler says the muggles are plotting against the wizarding world. The Prophet’s accusing my father of conspiring against peace, I think. Let’s stop by the Owlry before class. I want to write home.”
The second article basically denounced his father as a Dark wizard who was trying to undermine all the good the Minister of Magic and the muggle Prime Minister had worked for over the years. It speculated that Harry Potter was another Dark Lord in disguise, a muggle-hater not to be trusted.
His frustration flared into anger as he thought about it. Never mind none of it made any sense. Since when did reporters ever use sense? His father was married to a muggle. Had two halfblood kids. Had a large and close extended family and circle of friends in America, all muggle. Never mind his father had tried years ago to retreat out of the grasping circle of blood-suckers – pardoning all vampires – known as politicians and media hounds, the same ones who kept dragging him and his family back into things. Seth was a part of that family. He wouldn’t object one bit if father got out of politics altogether.
He wished Neil and grandpa were here, political analyst aficionados that they were, to rip into the bunch of idiots who thought they could drag his family through the wringer. If only because it’d make him feel better.
Now more than ever did he wish cellphones worked on magical ground, so he could reach his dads without waiting on a letter. The irony didn’t escape his notice that such things as functioning phones on Hogwarts was one of the things the articles accused his father of protesting. After all, wasn’t that what the conferences were about? Magical and muggle researchers working together to improve communication, integration, and coexistence?
----------Seth hated Hogwarts. At least, he hated it since those mad rumors started in the papers about his father, Harry Potter. Suddenly everyone believed his father was against muggle advancement. His father wanted to drag the world back to the dark ages. His father opposed unity between worlds. His father was a dark lord in disguise, surely, he must be, or why would he have put a curse on the ministers to ruin negotiations? The whispers ran rampant around the school and in Hogsmeade.
It’d only been a few months since the original story came out in The Quibbler and the Prophet but somehow it had grown into a monster of a mess. Seth knew it wasn’t for lack of trying. His dad had put out a statement explaining what had happened. He had walked out on the Harmony Conference, because two of the five muggle delegations wanted to institute security measures that would risk exposing the wizarding world if things went badly. With none of the parties willing to negotiate, his father didn’t want any part of it.
But he left it at that, and the Minister of Magic was railing as loud and long as he could about the entire thing, and about Harry Potter’s overreaction, with re-elections coming up.
Now… Now Seth was under scrutiny, along with the rest of his family, and he blamed his father. He didn’t like walking down the halls and seeing everybody stare and mutter. He hated even more the hissed insults students whipped out about him and his family when the teachers weren’t looking. His father was a blood traitor. His dad, Adam Lambert, was either a collaborator or a blind idiot. Seth finished more than a few fights when the comments started, usually by throwing a punch when the other threw a hex. No one at Hogwarts ever expected a physical attack, something that always baffled Seth. But he’d grown up with media, fans, and haters always pushing into his family’s personal space. Literally.
“You’ll have detention for the rest of the year if you keep picking fights,” Maria said unsympathetically as he complained and dropped his pile of books beside her on a table in the quietest corner of the Ravenclaw common room.
Seth settled himself in the free wingback chair across from her. “If father would speak up and shut everyone up I wouldn’t get in fights.”
“You need a distraction to take your mind off it. And maybe if you give it up you’ll stop blaming your dad for everything the papers are doing.” Maria said distractedly. She waved her quill at him. “Hendelweed wants our scrolls tomorrow, remember? Hibiscus leaves, they’re used to lighten potions and to improve the flavor of healing potions, but I forget what potions they’re key ingredients for.”
“Hibiscus is required for the Joy Draught, almost any potion to sweeten moods, and half the potions that affect levitation and density.” He sighed. “Dad says I can still transfer to Anasazi. I guess the rumors aren’t as bad in America.”
“They wouldn’t be.” Like her dirty blond hair, Maria got her blunt approach from her mother. “The only ones raising a ruckus about security and surveillance are the European delegates. Across the pond everyone thinks Uncle Harry’s being sensible.”
“Father practically jumped at the idea of me going to Anasazi with Sin. I’ve found three pamphlets in my luggage since I unpacked. I know they’d like if I was closer to home,” he said with dismay, watching as she scribbled absently along her scroll. Then her words sunk in. “How do you know what’s going on back home?”
“Dad gets The Witching Times every Sunday.” She jotted a few more sentences on her scroll. “You’re home here too. What you need is a distraction.” Maria looked up from their homework with a sudden bright look in here eyes. “I know. A band!”
“What?” He stared at her, green eyes shocked.
“We’ll start a band.” She nodded firmly. “That will take your mind off the papers.”
“You and me,” he said, unable to believe what he was hearing. “A duo.”
“A proper band.” Her smile was one of calm certainty. “You sing, so you can do that. Colette and Dri can join.”
“I want people to stop staring at me like I’m a freak. A band’s not going to help that,” he muttered.
“What about ‘Chaos Hags?’” She asked absently.
“What about it?” He asked, confused about the sudden change.
“For a name. We’ll need a name for our band.”
“We’re not starting a band, Maria!” Seth yelped. When she remained silent, focused back on her homework, he glared halfheartedly and gave up. “I’m going for a walk.”
It seemed like the perfect solution for escaping his companion and his own brain until he got outside the common room. He glanced down the length of the dim corridor restlessly. Go straight, toward the rest of the castle proper and any teachers prowling for out-of-bounds students? Or right and down the stairway, making a beeline into the dungeons? The dungeons ran the hazard of the caretaker, Filch, but Seth was used to dodging him. The chances of running into anyone else in the drafty, shadowy part of the castle were slim. Even their latest Potions professor, Hendelweed, preferred the warmer, much livelier upper floors. That in mind, Seth turned right.
He wandered without watching where he went. His feet seemed to know where to go well enough and he left it at that, letting himself run on autopilot as his thoughts ran free. He followed the corridors that led deeper into the bowels of the castle. The stairs here were stone and as solidly attached to the castle’s walls as anything. They didn’t move like the central stairs above, and for that Seth was eternally grateful. He brushed his fingers absently against the stone as the thought occurred to him, whispering thanks to the entity that now existed behind the endless layers of spells and magical debris, thanking Hogwarts herself. He’d developed the habit after the first touch of her mind back at the start of the year.
But his thoughts were elsewhere, on his parents and the worried letters from his sister, who kept telling him to leave the mad country he’d claimed for his education. And there was Maria and her harebrained scheme to start a band, of all things. He hated the idea of the rest of the school hearing about it, another thing to whisper about. But getting to sing again… And Maria did practice the drums, didn’t she?
He didn’t even notice the air chilling more with a slight breeze in the already cool dungeon maze. He did hear the soft voice cleared behind him and he whirled around. A woman stood silhouetted in the dim light emanating from his wand, features cast in shadow, blocking the way Seth had come.
His mind had been elsewhere, but he was sure there’d been no one else in these halls, and the disused classrooms were locked. The last alcove he’d passed had been back at the base of the stairs, a good twenty meters away. Where had she come from?
With barely a thought Seth brightened the tip of his wand, casting the newcomer into relief. It was a woman he’d never seen before. She was maybe thirty, with long, perfectly straight teal-green hair cascading down her back. Black eyes watched him with a gleam of interest, and her skin nearly glowed in the wandlight. Only her clothing made him wince: a bright purple and pink robe, fitted like a corset around her torso and flowing out at her hips. It glittered, as though she’d literally taken an entire bottle of the stuff and dumped it over her head. Even her hair shown with faint twinkling sparkles. Six or seven heavy necklaces hung around her neck. Something fluttered in the shadows behind her and a raven as dark as her eyes settled on her shoulder.
He willed down the smallest edge of panic along with the healthy dose of fear. It wasn’t the days of his father’s Hogwarts career. Murderers did not break into the school on a regular basis. Besides, no one with ill intent tried to stand out so much, and she nearly shone from the refracted light off the glitter. Whatever this was, he could handle it. The idea briefly fluttered into his mind that this could be a reporter. It would hardly be the first time one snuck into a building or looked so daft doing it.
He did the only thing he could think. He asked,
“Who are you? You’re not a student or teacher here.”
“Seth Lile Éibear Potter-Lambert,” she intoned with an affected air of mystique.
Seth was having none of that. “No one,” he said flatly, “calls me that.”
“You are one of the favored chosen,” she continued, ignoring his words. “The next in line of the greatest legacy, the heir apparent—”
“Nobody calls me that but my dads,” Seth said again, crossing his arms. “And knock off the crappy voice. You’re not fooling me. Who are you and what are you doing in Hogwarts? Are you a reporter? I’m going to have to report you to the Headmistress.” He didn’t really, but he was feeling vindictive and he couldn’t imagine this woman wanted to get caught out looking like a walking talking piece of cotton candy.
“You require an explanation,” she said, her voice whispering like silk. “I am here to give it.”
Seth quirked an eyebrow up. “That’d be a start.”
The woman smiled. “Seth Lile, I’m Mary-Sue Beverilaine Sparklypoo the third, High Witch of the Sacred House of Sparklypoo. I have come to answer your call for guidance.”
“Call? What call?” He scoffed. “And I don’t want your advice. You don’t even know what to wear.”
She looked down at her glittering robes, smoothing her hands down the corset. “It’s highly fashionable.”
Seth let loose with something his godfather would say. “Trust me, that thing’s cracked so many mirrors you could craft an army of disco balls.”
Her laugh reminded him of the tinkle of the Yule bells that hung everywhere around the school before the winter holiday. It was a bit grating. “Perhaps here, but where I come from, I assure you, it is the height of fashion.” She smiled teasingly and added, “Perhaps one day you’ll visit my home.”
A shudder went through him. There was a town he never wanted to lay eyes on.
“Believe it or not, you summoned us for help, and I fear you may need it.” Mary-Sue’s hand rested on his shoulder. He noted perfectly manicured pink-colored nails. “You are a powerful young sorcerer, with … unique blood flowing through your veins. You will be needed not far in the future, but you will need more resources than you have at hand if there’s any hope—”
His skin crawled, the frustrations of his family ringing in his ears about pureblood ideologies and idiotic beliefs. “My blood? I make me who I am, not my blood. And what are you on about anyway?”
“I am an ally, Seth Lile.” She sighed softly. “I should have come earlier, much earlier, when you were first Sorted into Sparklypoo, but after that fiasco with Aberforth… It seemed wise to wait and see what you would show us in time.” She watched him with sorrow marked deeply in her blue-green eyes.
…wait, blue-green? Seth looked closer. No, violet-blue. But they were supposed to be black. His wand now gave a steady, unwavering glow of bright light. He couldn’t be mistaken. Then her words caught up with him.
“What do you mean? You have something to do with me being in Sparklypoo?” He growled. Was this woman the cause of all his grief at Hogwarts? The reason he was set apart?
Mary-Sue shook her head and peered closer at him. “Time will be of the essence for you, Seth Lile. Things begin to move quickly now. Your father senses the plight all magic-kind shall face, but it is your destiny to face it, not his. It is up to you to save magic-kind.”
She unwound one of the necklaces from the bunch she wore and pulled it off over her head. It was a thin cord of gold rope with a large gold-and-onyx unicorn the size of his palm hanging from it. “A gift for you. It is the Amulet of Sparklypoo. You will need this. It will be of service in your hour of need.” When he did not accept the offering she quickly stepped forward and tucked it over his head. Seth couldn’t move fast enough to escape it before it was sitting heavily on his chest.
Seth wanted to edge away from this woman. He knew crazy when he heard it. “I’m going to save the world, am I? Claims the “House of Sparklypoo?” What a load of crap. What nuthouse did you escape from anyway? Can’t be Azkaban, they’re not as well groomed. Mungo’s?”
She gave her tinkling-bell laugh again. “Seth Lile, Sparklypoo is an obscure community for those with unusual talent. You cannot help but be what you are, and you are one who has a Destiny.” Seth could hear the capital ‘D’ in the word. “Have you ever wondered why you stick out so very much? This is why.”
“No,” he corrected, “my parents are why. Harry “war hero” Potter and Adam “rockstar” Lambert. Maybe you’ve heard of them.”
“Your own talents cause you to stand out, much as your sister’s talents help her shine. Absinthe Lior Morgan Potter-Lambert.” She smiled with a distant look in her now jade-green eyes. “She is much like you, yet still different. You two must walk carefully, either a force united or two storms that will break upon each other.”
Okay, that was it. Seth was done with the nonsense, shifting eyes, and the mystic spiel. “I don’t know who you are,” he said, ignoring her as she began to speak once more, “But that’s a load of crap. You stay the hell away from my sister and me.” He slid around her and began to walk back toward the stairs out of the dungeons.
Mary-Sue rested a hand on his shoulder once more, causing him to stop and look at her.
“I’m going,” he said flatly before she could speak. “Unless you’d like to tell me about how I’ll save the sun from being sucked into the neighborhood bully’s blackhole.”
She smiled with amusement, eye shimmering grey, and released him. “Goodbye, Seth Lile. We will meet again.”
Muttering “It’s Seth,” he grumpily stormed back up through the castle. Sparklypoo? Enemies with his sister? Save the world? He snorted. Right.
The rest of the castle was lit up with torches, and lined with welcoming tapestries and portraits. He barely noticed any of it, his body tense as his mind whirled around his conversation with Mary-Sue. He only snapped out of it when he slid into the common room he’d dashed out of what felt like hours ago.
Maria uncurled from a sofa near the entrance, pushing back her loose blond hair. “Feel better then?”
“Where is everyone?” He muttered, looking around the abandoned common room. The fireplace was banked.
She shook her head with a sleepy smile. “It’s past midnight, Seth. Everyone with some sense is in bed.”
He frowned at her. “Why aren’t you?”
She shrugged. “What about ‘Living Nornir?’”
Seth blinked. He scrambled to think what she could possibly mean.
“For a band name,” she elaborated as she turned and headed toward the first-year dormitories.
He trudged behind her with a groan. “Oh my god, Maria. Okay, whatever. I just want to sleep and forget this whole day.”
“Don’t forget the band part,” she called, slipping into her room. “Dri’s writing home for a guitar.”
----------“You can’t really be mad!” Seth followed close behind his sister as they climbed onto the large, comfortable tour bus. It was wonderfully cold on the bus after the unusually hot June weather of the city. His trunk had already been loaded in the storage space under the bus. He dropped his duffle at the thin, long kitchen table built into the floor.
He had only arrived in New York City an hour ago, happy to be off the plane even if it meant getting harried through customs at the airport. He was near his family, and he would finally get to see Sin after a year of only letters; she hadn’t made it home over the winter holiday, locked away behind doors working on a project. He’d missed her sharp presence through all their celebrations.
Now they were all here, in New York. It wasn’t LA, but it was home enough. Their dad was on tour, but with Seth and Sin at boarding school most of the year, neither Adam or Harry wanted to spend time away from them in the summer. When his dad toured through the summer then, it was agreed they would all go together. It meant Seth and Sin would be travelling with their parents by bus across the country and even maybe across part of Europe before the next term started. Seth was excited about it. He loved touring. It meant hectic days, filled with new sights and, best of all, his dad’s crew. They were another extended family. He’d discovered at Hogwarts that his countless number of unrelated “family” members was unusual. Remembering that always made him feel lucky.
Sin didn’t respond to his exclamation so he followed her to the middle of the bus, the living room. He sat next to her as she dropped onto one of the two overstuffed couches and pulled his legs up, staring in confused amazement until she settled herself. She had the grim frown she always wore when something upset her.
Sin was muttering to herself as she dragged her ginger hair back from her face, pulling it into a sloppy ponytail. He was shocked when he’d seen the color. He remembered her hair as pitch black, even slightly darker than his own, and he’d wondered why she dyed it and made a mental note to ask later, when she was in a better mood. Dad sure went to great lengths to keep his own ginger hair black or dark brown. Now Sin’s blue eyes snapped. He noticed she had more freckles than ever and wondered how she ever got outside when all she ever did was read boring technical tomes.
“You want me to be happy dad’s stomping all over my … my … life’s ambition?!” When together, both their dads were just ‘dad.’ They always knew which parent the other twin was talking about. She made a face and bit her lip when Seth started laughing. “You know what I mean.” Seth stuffed a fist in his mouth to stop. It didn’t help; she saw the movement and punched him in the shoulder. “Shut up.”
“Life’s ambition.” It was all he said before he buried his face against his knees and shook from the suppressed laughter.
“Shut up!” Sin said louder, hitting him again, harder. She turned red. “He’s being so stupid! Why can’t he support the Ministry? I bet he’s spiting them because he’s never liked the government in Britain. Why can’t he support scientists who want to work with the witches?”
He made a face. “I haven’t heard anything about scientists, just ‘officials,’ and I’ve been in it more than you have.” He’d felt at the center of it at Hogwarts half the time.
“I’m reading all the articles—” she began.
He groaned. “You would. Unless you’ve got Uncle Neil to translate, they’re plain useless.”
“It’s not like you care.” Sin kicked a few cushions off the couch and shifted around grouchily. “You don’t have any interest in combining magic and science. But I’m going to be a magic technician someday and dad’s…dad’s…he doesn’t care either. And Harmony was going to pave the way and now no one’s going to care.”
Seth rolled his eyes. “You’re going to be a magic-science voodoo specialist or what-have-you anyway, Sin. Look, I’ve got something important to tell you.” He fidgeted and got up, dashing back into the kitchenette to grab his duffle. When he returned Sin was sitting up straight, arms draped around one drawn up leg, watching him curiously. He pulled out the unicorn necklace and dangled it in front of her. “You’re not going to believe the load of crap I was fed.”
“Is that a Sparklypoo crest?” Sin asked incredulously.
He dropped down on the couch. “Yeah, I told you they looked stupid with the unicorn and everything. But that’s not what I wanted to tell you. I was ambushed by some weird Sparklypoo, I don’t know, enthusiast—”
“Who ranted about moments in history, reading stars, and all that jazz?” Sin interrupted with a snort. He blinked at her as she leveled him with a matter-of-fact stare. “Some fake cornered me a couple months about it. I was going to ask you, because you were sorted into House Sparklypoo, but I didn’t want to ask in a letter.” She picked up the necklace, looking it over.
“Did she have teal hair, weird eyes? Raved about destiny a lot?” Seth asked, excited. Maybe they could work out what it was all about. “Did she give you a necklace too?”
Sin glanced up absently before returning to her inspection. “She? I met a guy, Gary-Stu, he said his name was. Or Gary-Stu Blah Blah Sparklypoo the Second.” She handed the necklace back. “White hair, white eyes with this thin black rim, like some of dad’s contacts.”
He nodded slowly. “Mary-Sue gave me that necklace, and said I’d save the world.”
Sin bit her lip. “I got some chat about the stars and breaking barriers and not giving in to the dark side. He said I was dangerous! I told him where to shove it. And then he said I could choose the right path and jammed a bracelet on my wrist, calling it an amulet.”
Seth scoffed, “Dangerous? Right.” She looked so worried about it he didn’t have the heart to tell her his own nutcase mentioned something along those lines. “And I think I’d rather have the bracelet. Can I see? Did Gary-Stu keep calling you Absinthe Lior? Mine was ‘Seth Lile’ every other sentence!”
“Yes!” Sin pulled up the sleeve of her light cargo jacket, revealing a thick golden band with a gold unicorn with opal embellishments depicted in the center. “I didn’t think anyone knew our full names. It was creepy.”
“So we’re both… Sparklypoo.” Seth leaned back into the couch. “I thought it was just a Hogwarts house, like a wild card. D’you think it means anything? What are the odds of us both meeting two crazy people who go on about Sparklypoo?”
Sin grinned, “With our lives? Pretty good.”
“Ah, the dulcet tones of my beloved twins.” They heard the clatter of footsteps coming up the stairs and a bag dropping onto the floor. Harry’s head poked through the doorway. “And smiling faces. Does this mean you’re speaking to me again, Sinful?”
Sin made a face. Seth nudged her with a foot.
Adam appeared in the doorway beside Harry. “Are the rumors true? Has World War Three ended?” Harry elbowed him in the stomach lightly.
“Dad!” Sin scowled.
“Good,” he winked. “So what’s this about our youngest starting a band?”
Seth’s eyes widened. “Who..? Uncle Neil told you! I told him in confidence!”
“He was so close to bursting with pride he had to get it out,” Harry snorted.
“So when do we get to hear you?” Adam prompted. “Hogwarts does talent shows, doesn’t it?”
“Why couldn’t you just pretend to go along with things until Harmony got started?” Sin demanded suddenly, staring at Harry.
Seth wasn’t sure if he was relieved the heat was off him or put out Sin was going to drag the gossip out with their dad. He’d hoped he was leaving all of that at Hogwarts for the summer.
Harry shrugged a shoulder. “Some things don’t work out, Sin. I didn’t condemn the conference, whatever the tossers keep bleating about.” When that didn’t garner a response he sighed and sat on the edge of the couch. “Sinful,” Harry’s tone was calm. “I will happily support anyone with half a brain and a decent measure of sensibility who wishes to test the complexities of combining spells and tech, including you, when you get there. I know you don’t want to hear it, but I do have good reasons for the things I do.”
“The Wizengamot won’t join the conference without you.” Sin stared at her nails, picking at them. “And my science teacher—”
“Your science teacher isn’t entrenched in the politics of it, Sinful,” Adam reminded gently. “Your dad does know what he’s doing—”
“And getting the wizarding world and the muggle world to collaborate peaceably on anything’s bound to take time.” Harry hugged her against his side. “Don’t worry about it. It’ll get sorted.”
“After the muggle side gives up on their unreasonable demands or the British Minister of Magic convinces the Wizengamot they don’t need Harry’s presence at the conference.” Adam shook his head.
“I never figured out why they wanted me in the first place,” Harry said.
Adam grimaced. “Surely you two did more interesting things at school than wonder over the gossip rags. Something about a band comes to mind.”
Seth groaned. He’d hoped that’d gotten lost in the shuffle.
Adam chuckled. “You had to know better. And I have three months to weasel something out of you.”
Summer would be interesting to say the least, he thought to himself. He was more than happy to deal with the insanity. He knew he could outwit his dad. Next year, with Sparklypoo, his band, and Harmony Conference 2.0, would come fast enough, and it could all wait a few months for all Seth cared.