IN THE ECHO OF A DREAM
The echoes had been with him for as long as he could remember. They weren’t anything as crude as say, a voice in his head – he wasn’t crazy, after all – but there was a certain ease with which the correct spell was always at the tip of his tongue and the way he moved his wand in perfect form without having to ever think about it.
(And then there were the dreams – but we don’t talk about those.)
“Albus,” he remembered his mother cooing as he began speaking, reading, and walking at an age earlier than most, “You’re just as brilliant as your namesake.”
Like many children of his generation, he was named after the great Albus Dumbledore, which made it extremely awkward when he later met Albus Severus Potter and a litany of other kids also named Albus. His parents however, were adamant that he was special – “We’re from a distant branch of the Dumbledore bloodlines, and it’s an important family name for us,” they said.
When Albus Seillean was two he performed his first major display of accidental magic and transformed the ceiling of his nursery into a glittering night sky. “It’s just like the Great Hall at Hogwarts,” said his father with a mixture of awe and apprehension in his voice.
It wasn’t until he started at Hogwarts in earnest, however, that his instinctive genius became readily apparent. Of course, his parents had always willingly supplied advanced reading material in the lead up to his schooling, but from the moment he was given his own wand and stepped through those hallowed halls, Albus began to soar.
He boarded the Hogwarts Express with a warm sense of wonder overloading his senses – it never got old. The scent of worn-in leather mingled with the musky smoke of the train, and the sound of laughing children bidding farewell to anxious parents filled the air. Albus knew without question that when the Trolley Witch came past later, he’d be emptying out his pockets for all sorts of sweets.
“Albus – over here!” Came a sudden shout, and Al Potter, possibly the closest thing to a brother that Albus had, stuck his head out from a compartment and beckoned him over.
Al Potter had barreled into Albus’s life much like a graceless hippogriff in a china shop, and Albus loved every minute of it. After all, there was nothing quite like attempting to stop James Sirius Potter from pulling an unnecessary prank on one unsuspecting Scorpius Malfoy to bring a friendship together.
Albus had barely set foot on the train for the first time when a slender blonde came stumbling past, followed by maniacal laughter and a slightly older boy waving his wand dramatically. The pair were swiftly tailed by another small boy with messy black hair and vivid green eyes shouting, “James you can’t put a curse on someone on the Hogwarts Express!”
What developed after involved Al and Scorpius barricading themselves in an empty train compartment, while James threatened to hex the door down, “I just want to dye his hair pink, Al! Uncle Ron said the Malfoys are very sensitive about the hair!”
With a confidence that surprised him, Albus found himself approaching the compartment door and casting a reasonably simple warding charm much to James Potter’s irritation. In between several failed attempts at undoing the charm, James cheerfully introduced himself to Albus and wondered which house he would end up in, before leaving with a, “Well, you’ll probably give Rosie a run for her money – don’t worry, I’ll get Scorpius next time.”
Seconds later and in abject gratitude, the two trapped first years opened the door and dragged Albus inside with the promise of sweets. They very quickly decided who was an Al and who was an Albus before poor Scorpius lost it at them both.
“Can you believe,” continued Al, not paying attention as Albus ducked his head slightly to enter the compartment, “that this is the last time we’ll be doing this trip? This time next year we’ll be exploring all of Europe!”
“That’s if we survive our NEWTs and then actually plan for it,” said Albus with a mischievous look his blue eyes, pushing thin spectacles back up the bridge of his nose as he took the seat opposite Al. Scorpius hadn’t arrived yet, but that was to be expected – Draco and Astoria Malfoy were always loath to part with their only child for long.
Al rolled his eyes, running a hand through his eternally tousled hair and sighed, “Well yes, but it’s not like you need to worry about your NEWTs – I’m sure McGonagall’s gotten all the trophies pre-spelled with your name already.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Albus smiled in response and busied himself with fishing a set of robes from out of his magically enhanced bag, slender fingers catching on a small metal object which he dutifully pulled out as well. Eyes twinkling, he flashed the small Head Boy badge in Al’s direction and busied himself with pulling the robes over his uniform.
Al let out a hearty laugh, “Rosie was so hoping it wouldn’t be you – I told her there was a drake’s chance in snow that you wouldn’t get it, but you know how she gets.”
Albus replied with a rueful sigh and a slight shake of his head. From the very beginning, Rose Granger-Weasley had had no idea what to make of Albus. With high expectations placed on her from her Minister for Magic mother and former auror father, it had taken Rose a number of years to come to terms with the fact that no matter how studious and clever she was, she could never quite match the red-headed boy.
They eventually settled on a friendly and very one-sided rivalry.
“I suppose you’ve got to go and lecture the prefects, then?” Al continued with a resigned sigh of his own. While he’d never cared for becoming a prefect himself – he was much better at Quidditch, thank you very much – for the past two years he’d had to sit by himself for the first hour of the Hogwarts Express train ride while Albus and Scorpius had to fulfil their prefect duties.
“Yes well I can’t be late, or Rose will give me a lecture about neglect and lack of appreciation,” said Albus, casting an apologetic look at his friend while pulling his loose auburn hair into a tight knot. “We’ll be back in no time at all – I can’t wait to hear all about your summer.”
The Great Hall glittered in all its glory as the first feast of the year began and Albus basked in the atmosphere. Seated at the Gryffindor table with Al, he waved and greeted his housemates and fellow students as the Sorting Hat gradually chose new homes for a new crop of students.
At the head of the hall the high table hosted the teaching faculty with Headmistress McGonagall taking pride of place in the centre. To her left sat the mousey-haired deputy headmaster Professor Fawcett who had taken the Charms post from Professor Flitwick several years prior, and on McGonagall’s other side, Professor Slughorn watched the Sorting Ceremony take place with an avaricious eye.
“Selena Yang, Hufflepuff!” cried the Sorting Hat and the central table festooned in yellow and black erupted into cheers as the newest member of their house almost ran to take her seat.
“Jeremy Young, Gryffindor!” came next and Albus dutifully clapped and whooped with the rest of his house as a scrawny boy with dark hair confidently strode towards the table and was instantly swept up into a conversation with Rose Granger-Weasley.
With an invisible cue food and drink appeared on the dining tables and Albus smiled at the shocked oohs and aahs emanating from the first years. Pouring himself a glass of pumpkin juice and then topping up Al’s cup he continued the conversation they had started prior, “So your family was fine with Scorpius staying over during the break in the end? I know it was stressing you out”.
“Look, to be honest, I think my family was glad to have him over if only ‘cause it meant that I wasn’t the one at Malfoy Manor for the whole summer,” replied Al over a mouthful of chicken. “I mean, I consider it a success that James only managed to hex Scor once. You’d think he’d at least try to behave with mum and dad around!”
The two laughed – the chances of James ever growing out of his obsessive need to pull pranks on anyone and everyone were slim to none, and it seemed like he’d developed an extra special itch for harassing Scorpius that only grew once The Most Dramatic Love Story at Hogwarts managed to resolve itself. Luckily for them all, James had graduated before any of the really dramatic parts happened.
“Did you get James back at least?”
“Oh you bet I did – Scor didn’t want to start any trouble, but Uncle George gave me some test products,” Al continued with a smirk.
The sound of clattering cutlery and boisterous conversation continued to rise and then slow, finally ending with full bellies and half-hidden yawns.
Headmistress McGonagall stood and the hall fell into silence. Renowned for her ability to convey utmost disdain with a single look as well as her excellent wandwork and aptitude for transfiguration, Albus had come to view her as almost another mother figure over the past six years.
“Students, this year we have some very exciting news. The Ministry of Magic has decided, in consultation with its international counterparts, to revive the Triwizard Tournament and Hogwarts is honoured to be its host,” McGonagall proclaimed although the tail end of her announcement was quickly drowned out by the sound of excited students whispering.
Albus flinched as a sharp elbow nudged him in the ribs and he turned to match Al’s incredulous look with his own half-hearted shrug. For Al, the idea that anyone thought the Triwizard Tournament was a good idea, ever, was absolutely terrifying. Especially after the last one which casually resurrected a Dark Lord.
“I’m sure they’ve made it safer if they’re planning on bringing it back,” Albus murmured in what he hoped was a reassuring manner.
“As you will know, the Triwizard Tournament is a series of magical challenges set forth for the best and brightest students of Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang,” McGonagall continued firmly over the noise. “Our sister schools will be staying at Hogwarts for the duration of the tournament.”
“As such,” she added, “I would remind all of our students to be on their best behavior when our guests arrive, and to also be mindful that class timetables and facility bookings are subject to change as needed for the tournament.”
Al let out a huffy sigh, “As if organizing Quidditch training wasn’t hard enough…”
“Prefects, please escort your first years to the dorms,” concluded McGonagall.
As one the student body of Hogwarts rose from their tables and began to file out of the hall in a slightly chaotic fashion. Saying a quick farewell to Al, Albus caught Rose’s eye and joined her to approach the high table.
“I can’t believe mum didn’t tell me a thing,” said Rose glumly with a shake of her head. The usually chipper brunette was as immaculately put together as usual but her hazelnut eyes seemed lost in thought.
Albus gave a wry smile in return. While he too held some reservations about the viability of the Tournament and its glittering track record, he had to admit the prospect of meeting more witches and wizards from across the globe was something he was actually quite excited about.
“Rose, Albus, I trust you had an enjoyable summer?” asked the headmistress, breaking into a smile and nodding sharply. “I’ll see you both bright and early in the morning – its going to be a busy year and we have much to discuss and much more to plan.”
And with that the school year had begun.
As Head Boy and Head Girl at Hogwarts, Albus and Rose were no longer required to dorm with the rest of their houses, instead moving into individual chambers on the fifth floor. The policy had been designed so that prefects and students were able to reach out to them whenever they liked without needing to wrestle with overexcited portraits.
Parting ways with Rose in the corridor after the feast, Albus came to a stop in front of a painting of a floral garden with a glorious phoenix perched on a branch. At the bottom of the artwork the title Fawkes in the Bumblebee Garden was embossed into the gold frame.
“Sherbet lemon,” whispered Albus, and he felt slightly silly for trying to talk to a bird.
Fawkes the phoenix cocked its head to the side before the frame swung wide open to grant Albus entry into the room.
On the inside, the chamber looked like a more compact version of the Gryffindor common room with a queen-sized bed complete with canopy and drapes taking up the far wall. A nondescript door led the way to an elegant bathroom with a generous bathtub that Albus was extremely grateful for, as he was sure he would never reach the level of comfort required for seeing his fellow prefects in the nude.
In the central chamber, a desk for study was paired with ample bookshelves that had already been filled with Albus’s books from his luggage, and a sumptuous velvet sofa sat opposite a merrily crackling fire.
Above the fireplace, however, hung another portrait which was titled The Night Sky. And while you would normally expect such a painting to comprise of a rich nightscape and twinkling stars, the scene was mostly obscured by an excited blonde girl waving gently out into the room.
“Hello Albus,” said Ariana.
And Albus smiled.
Albus had met Ariana in his first year by complete accident. He’d been wandering down the seventh-floor corridor a month into his schooling, when a peculiar door appeared and seemed to beckon him.
The Room of Requirement, his brain supplied automatically, as though he’d been there a million times before. Pushing open the door and stepping inside, he found a cosy room filled with bookshelves armchairs. Despite his keenness to examine the magic of the space, he ignored it all for the key feature of the room: the striking painting of a fey-like teenage girl.
Albus felt faint – as though he had somehow known her face his entire life.
“O you’re here,” said the portrait, and the echoes of a dream of summer days and melodic laughter settled upon Albus like a warm cloak. She had gossamer blonde hair that swayed in the invisible wind within her picture’s frame, and a brilliant smile grew across her face.
“Here?” Albus repeated in a murmur.
“Yes, I’ve been waiting for you – nobody talks to me anymore after Abe,” she said and beamed. “Of course, you don’t know who I am, do you?”
Albus swallowed the lump in his throat harshly as he frantically chased the name that sat at the tip of his tongue. It remained just slightly out of reach.
“I’m Ariana – but you can call me Ari,” she almost sang, “will you tell me a story?”
Since then, Albus had spent the last six years visiting the Room of Requirement once a fortnight. While he’d told Al and Scorpius that he preferred studying by himself all the times he’d disappeared inside, that was only part of the reason. In truth, there was something incredibly calming about chatting to Ariana – even if she was just a portrait.
“How did you get in here, Ari?” asked Albus as he shrugged off his robe. Underneath, he wore the plain Hogwarts uniform of white shirt and grey pants, and before he slipped out of those he quickly thought better of it – Ariana may have been a painting, but she held herself with a classic poise that Albus felt was quite traditionally minded.
“I heard some of the other portraits say that you’re head boy this year, Albus – congratulations!” she chirruped, “The Fat Lady mentioned to one of the knights that you’d be in this room and Fawkes let me in”.
Albus couldn’t help but grin. From what he’d gathered, Ariana was one of the school’s more mysterious portraits who spent most of her time in the Room of Requirement or in another painting outside of Hogwarts. More shy than most artworks, Ariana seemed to latch on to Albus and would only speak to him when nobody else was around.
“Thank you, Ari,” Albus said graciously as he unlocked his trunk and began to unpack his belongings. He had to admit, having his own room was definitely a perk that made being Head Boy worth it. “How was your summer?”
“Oh it was quite lovely – I did some more exploring,” said Ariana, by which she meant she visited several scenic paintings, “how was yours? Did you do anything exciting?”
“Well, I went to Mahoutokoro for several weeks to work with their elemental transfiguration team,” began Albus, “mother was worried for me but I reassured her they were taking good care of me and I picked the language up quite quickly which was interesting –”
“Oh the school in Japan?” breathed Ariana in awe, “Was it just beautiful?”
Albus laughed and then stifled a yawn, “It was pretty amazing, the different kinds of magic they’re exploring is really groundbreaking. You’ll never believe what they’re trying to do with weather magic over there…”
The first few weeks of term passed by almost too quickly to count and it seemed like all anyone could talk about was just who would be stupid enough to put their name forward for the Triwizard Tournament.
Fending off inquiries about the tasks (“No, Erol, McGonagall hasn’t ordered a maze full of dementors”) and juggling his already full workload had Albus constantly wondering where his time had gone as he moved between classrooms and meetings with Hogwarts staff.
Truthfully, he wouldn’t have minded managing the logistics as Head Boy, except that Professor Fawcett was asking him for what had to be the thousandth time whether or not he’d ensured the designated landing zone for the Beauxbatons carriage was clear, and he was sure he had more important things to think about.
“Yes of course, Professor,” Albus replied patiently while mentally checking off the rest of his to-do list. Both schools were due to arrive at the same time, and McGonagall had assigned Albus to oversee Beauxbatons, leaving Rose with Durmstrang. He supposed it was because out of the two of them, Albus was more likely to keep his cool when faced with a troupe of Abraxan horses and a half-giant headmistress.
Although the horses were magnificent, Albus had to admit as they swooped into view, beginning as a small speck on the horizon growing steadily larger and larger (and larger, still) as they began their gradual descent.
Hastily, Albus smoothed his auburn hair back and tidied it into its customary knot at the nape of his neck. Al had convinced him to style his hair like this ever since it had grown long enough to tie, saying that it was all the rage in the muggle world. Privately, Albus just liked the style because it kept his hair out of the way while he read and honestly, wearing glasses was hard enough already.
The Abraxans landed in a forceful canter, slowing into a trot as the carriage made a surprisingly smooth landing. Professor Fawcett hastily brushed down his robes with his hands and strode towards the carriage door, beckoning Albus to stand next to him as they waited for the French school to disembark.
“Ah, Madame Maxime, welcome to Hogwarts,” Fawcett beamed as the headmistress stepped out of the carriage. “I trust your journey was smooth? I am Professor Fawcett and this is Albus Seillean – Headmistress McGonagall requested that we guide you to the Great Hall”.
Nodding politely, Madame Maxime turned slightly towards the inside of the carriage and in a surprisingly light voice called, “Viens Beauxbatons!”
Immediately the sharply dressed cohort of students began to exit the carriage in single file until the group of twenty or so students pooled around Madame Maxime, taking in the sight of Hogwarts’ surrounds with wide eyes.
“Professor Hagrid will look after the horses and get them settled while we head to the Great Hall,” explained Professor Fawcett as he began to lead the way towards the school. Keeping pace beside the professor, Albus smiled and quietly introduced himself to several of the Beauxbatons students, making an effort to memorise their names just in case.
Albus entered the Great Hall first and with a simple flourish of his wand, sent the generous doors swinging wide open. He was hyper conscious of the fact that almost every pair of eyes in the room were focused on him, waiting in anticipation.
“Students of Hogwarts, please welcome our cousins to the east, Beauxbatons, and their headmistress Madame Maxime,” pronounced McGonagall as she stood at the high table.
Maxime led the students to the front of the hall before pausing to thank McGonagall for her hospitality and taking a seat of honour at the faculty table, leaving the Beauxbatons students to disperse themselves across the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables.
With the Beauxbatons cohort seated, Albus hurried to find his customary spot next to Al at the Gryffindor table and craned his neck in anticipation for the entrance of Durmstrang. Soon enough, Rose’s distinctive dark curls made an appearance as the Head Girl of Hogwarts opened the doors to welcome the students inside.
Much like the entrance of Beauxbatons, Headmistress Schwere entered first to Headmistress McGonagall’s introduction. “Students of Hogwarts, please welcome the delegation from Durmstrang, our cousins in the North, and their Headmistress – Headmistress Schwere.”
Compared to Madame Maxime and even Headmistress McGonagall’s own tall stature, Headmistress Schwere was dwarfed in physical presence, but oozed an icy temperament that was probably required to keep a school like Durmstrang in line. She seemed to glide as she walked and she held her head high as she led her students through the hall.
Albus continued to observe and felt his heart leap into his throat.
Following closely behind Schwere was a slim blonde with a mess of wavy golden hair that seemed to glisten in the fire light. Bundled up in the customary thick crimson robes of Durmstrang, Albus could just make out a refined jaw line that was put to shame only by sharp cheekbones and wicked eyes that could have been green or blue depending on the whims of the light.
“You’re staring,” whispered Al, amused as he dug his elbow into Albus’s side.
The blonde stood at attention with the rest of the Durmstrang cohort as Headmistress Schwere turned sharply on her heel, thanked Headmistress McGonagall and Hogwarts for being their gracious hosts, and dismissed her students to seat themselves at the Ravenclaw and Slytherin tables.
A tight coil of restlessness twined within Albus’s ribcage as he watched the striking blonde seat himself several students away from Scorpius. There was something that was just achingly familiar about him and Albus’s eyes were transfixed, brow furrowed tight as he wondered just where he had seen the Durmstrang student before.
“To our guests from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, we extend a warm welcome to Britain and to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” announced Headmistress McGonagall, voice ringing like a bell throughout the hall, “In celebration of twenty-five years of peace, it is with great honour that Hogwarts is to host the first, of hopefully many more, Triwizard Tournaments in our continent since 1994”.
“The Triwizard Tournament has always been an opportunity for Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang to come together and strengthen the friendships that bind us, and to, of course, honour our best and brightest in a series of magical challenges,” she continued, “Make no mistake – the tournament is not for the faint hearted. But for the winner, eternal glory and a thousand galleons await.”
McGonagall paused for a moment and cast her piercing gaze over the hall, “Only students in their seventh year of study will be permitted to enter their names into the Goblet of Fire which will be overseen by myself and staff from both Hogwarts, and our visiting guests.”
A low murmur erupted amongst the students, with Albus catching a sixth year whispering conspiratorially to an anxious looking second year, “Yeah, because the age line worked so well last time…”
“The names will be drawn in one week’s time – so to those who are thinking of placing their names in the Goblet of Fire, we urge you to think long, and think carefully, about whether you wish to do so,” continued McGonagall.
Smiling now, McGonagall waved her wand and the tables became laden with ample food and drink, “In the meantime, to our guests, please feel welcome and make our halls your home – Hogwarts looks forward to growing our friendships with you.”
That night when Albus returned to his room long after the feast had wrapped up, he barely registered the uncharacteristic quiet from Ariana’s portrait or that the girl seemed more solemn than usual.
With his mind in a clouded daze, he slipped out of his clothes and slid into bed, mentally circling around one key question: who was the blonde boy?
That night, Albus dreams.
It is the middle of high summer and the sound of a wending stream accompanies the melodic trills of birds and the beat of his heart thumping as though it is on the verge of leaping out of his chest. Dry grass prickles underneath his thighs through thin cloth and his back is pressed firmly against the bark of an old willow tree making indents in his skin.
“Just think about it,” comes the husky voice, and all Albus can do is watch pink lips move tantalizingly closer and closer, “we could rule the world, Albus. Just you and me.”
Albus fights to tear his gaze away from the lips and catches glimpses of honey toned skin and tumbling locks of golden curls paired with mesmerizing pale blue eyes that would put the sky to shame. The face is unbearably close to his own, and its owner is practically straddling Albus’s lap, with hands resting on the same tree that’s supporting Albus’s spine, on either side of Albus’s face.
Albus’s eyes return to the lips. He wonders what they feel like and becomes immeasurably self-conscious of his own.
“For the greater good?” Albus manages to breathe out, and Merlin, their noses are almost touching now.
The other laughs and it is a deep and warm sound as he whispers, ‘always’, before finally lips touch lips and Albus never thought kissing could be this good. His hands slide across warm skin as heat builds in his stomach and he’s never wanted anything more in life than he’s wanted this.
Than he’s wanted him.