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Harry slowly unfurled his fingers, staring down at the tiny eyeballs grouped in his palm. He groaned, twisted his wrist so the eyes plopped back into the bucket, and immediately thrust his hand back in. You know, with the—" with her free hand, she mimed shoving her hand into the bucket and pulling it back out. You've just traumatized an innocent beetle." Harry shot a glowering look at the tiny holes lining the leaves of his spring cabbages. Rita Skeeter had run three stories about their family in the past two weeks. She rounded the table and sat in the chair on Mc Gonagall's other side, looking up at the woman like she held the secrets to the universe itself. The Chess pieces scattered as the red tendrils invaded. Harry turned, expecting to see Luna and her family (as they'd made plans to come over prior in the week), but it was a red head that greeted him instead of the assumed blonde. "I need to speak with your husband." Harry tried to keep from feeling terrified, but the eldest two Weasley brothers were still extremely intimidating to him, even after all these years. Harry froze, worried that he'd start crying and that Harry would be obligated to try and comfort him, but Ginny quickly sat beside her brother and began patting his arm a second later. "There were no other wizards at Shell Island when we were there. He’s got a horrible combination of issues: he’s utterly blind, he lets the other dragons bully him to the point that he can’t be near any at all for fear that he’ll be fatally attacked, he’ll probably never be able to breathe fire, and to make matters even more complicated, he’s terrified of human interaction. Ron’s face was purple and he looked torn between laughing at George’s joke and screaming in horror. Before anybody could do much to stop it, Halloran slashed his wand through the air. Get back here and face my sister’s bat-bogey, you disgusting—”“Al, what’s…? He said ‘Lily Potter’, I hung back to say hello, and he just…got really angry and started saying all these things. Scorpius set it safely on his lap, glad no harm had come to it. I remember the name of anybody who hurt my mum or dad,” she grumbled. Halloran’s been in and out of Azkaban his entire childhood, visiting his dad. But we need to keep in mind what Scorpius said: you feel . Things had been well enough; she’d spent the majority of her time with James, but they’d played a few games of makeshift Quidditch, she partially helped Albus, Scorpius, and Harry make treacle tart, and once she and Scorpius had a. Mum’s there, too—they’re having dinner in his office and said to invite you two once you showed up.”“James. “She’s already working well into the night with us on these laws. He’d been pacing angrily, but he stopped in front of Draco. And it’d work.”“That’s great, Draco, but we’ve got children, and there’s only two of us.”“I’ll come, too. Scorpius’s dad burst into laughter, followed a moment later by Ginny. He stamped off, scanning the corners around himself now, concern filling him at a rapid rate. “You could tell me…if you want to.”“I to, for your own good.”“That’s not even a rule! In my house it is.” Scorpius watched her wipe at her face again. He quickly patted his pockets, hoping to come up with something for her, but he didn’t carry a handkerchief around. Scorpius took that as a yes.“I n-never knew that somebody could that he wanted to cry too. She walked with him to drop off the book his professor had given him, and by the time they went their separate ways, she was nearly back to her old self again. He began withdrawing eel eyes at a rapid pace, searching for the one he needed, and then immediately re-submerging his hand when he inevitably didn't find it. He paused and glanced behind himself; Ginny had arrived, a glass of wonderful, chilled butterbeer in hand. Harry probably would've laughed had she made that joke thirty minutes ago, but he was disgusted, frustrated, and dying of thirst. He reached a hand out for his glass; she passed it to him immediately, probably sensing how lightheaded he was. Neville said it's the next step since these sodding, bloody slugs wouldn't keep away with the mashed up white ones…! He glanced distractedly to his left, quickly grabbing his nearly-empty glass. About things she had no logical way of knowing, unless she was creeping around their home and garden. "You've gotten further making your own potion than most adult witches will in their entire lifespan. Ginny came into the kitchen at the sound of the arrival. And it was even now because he knew Charlie was about to be angry with him (if he wasn't already). But if a muggle had stolen it, it'd be in the headlines by now! I thought it'd be okay, as long as I kept the injured ones with me and tended to them. The night before we left Shell Island…I was talking with a colleague from Romania. “Ron, George, I love you, but I’m going to need you both to sod off,” Ginny ordered. Lily’s, Albus’s, and Scorpius’s school bags split open, sending all their belongings tumbling to the floors. ” Albus’s infuriated cry broke off as Halloran turned and hurried off. ” Harry came to a stop beside them, a mug of tea in hand. He dropped down to his knees, hands shaking, and began to gather his belongings. ” They quickly resumed walking.“Why was he saying those things to you, Lily? He handed her one of her pink quills; it’d gotten mixed in with his belongings. Harry leaned in and lowered his voice.“Do you three remember anything about the Carrows’ involvement during the Second Wizarding War? Albus looked less certain; Scorpius made another mental note to try and help Albus improve his knowledge of history.“The…Death Eaters, right? The Carrow family appealed to have Amycus’s case reopened over the summer after Amycus fell ill. Amycus died in Azkaban in July.”Scorpius looked between Harry and Albus, his eyes wide.“Why did you refuse? It’s not easy to fight for your life when you have no hope. So Scorpius wasn’t sure where they stood, and that made things even worse. Scorpius set a palm on his leg from beneath the table, but Albus hardly seemed to notice. With all she’s got going on…I didn’t realize before. ” Harry suggested hopefully.“Not unless you want to bury Carrow. He’ll be and he’s already cornered your youngest child and threatened extreme violence. I’ll watch over Albus.”“Don’t you think you’re overreacting, just a bit? Harry glowered at them both.“Okay—look,” he tried to say over their laughter. ”“Oh, come here,” Ginny requested, patting the spot beside her. He looked up at Peeves, after narrowly dodging a thrown Gobstone.“Hang on. ”“You’re not very clever, but that’s okay—give me your head, I’ll make good use of your brains—”“Peeves! When Lily stuck her hand into her pocket, he assumed she was pulling something out to clean her face up with. He didn’t even think about it as he reached forward and pulled her into a hug. Scorpius realized that this must be what it felt like to have siblings. That night, Scorpius, Albus, and James went back to Harry’s office.

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Ginny approached and settled down beside him as he wiped his arm off, his lip curled with disgust. He felt a cool mist drift over his burning skin a moment later, and when he glanced to the side, he saw Ginny was orchestrating the cool-down with her wand, her eyes glued on the bucket of eel eyes. But I've yet to find ." The haunted look he sent her must've told her all she needed to know because she grimaced and didn't press the matter further. Having assumed she was preparing to walk away, he hadn't anticipated it. She was leaning forward, her face lovely, freckled, and mischievous—and only a few inches from his. He stabbed the rim of glass down into the earth, trapping the beetle. Their most memorable (and paranoid) catch had been at the Burrow last Saturday. Harry could see the green-and-red blob that was his wife, standing nervously at the fireplace. He could make out the shape of the Floo container in her hands, but nothing more. Albus had risen to put his plate in the sink, but Harry spotted him slyly reaching for the sponge instead, clearly to give himself an opportunity to eavesdrop. And we were discussing that fear…that this dragon would ultimately either end up secluded in its own section of the sanctuary with little interaction from anybody but me—he actually trusts me—or he’d be “released”. “Ginny, Hermione’s just told me, I can’t believe—AH! Do you have any idea what people are saying about you now? “Er…okay, so, you should all leave,” Harry blurted. He looked between the three students, their severed bags, and then after Halloran’s retreating back. Harry kneeled beside them and waved his wand over each bag to mend it.“Dad, he was saying horrible things to Lily! Ginny spoke at his initial trial, as did Neville, Luna, Dean, and Seamus. Scorpius shoved the last of his items into his bag and did the same.“Don’t worry about it,” he told them reassuringly. “He’ll get over it.”“Oh, I’m worrying about it, all right,” Scorpius hissed to Albus. ”Scorpius spun around, glancing towards the last place the boys had been. The Slytherin girls were alternating between whispers and frantic giggling. Scorpius looked around, confused, staring from face to face. ’s deductions today will come from Hufflepuff.”“Oh, damn. “You’re a disobedient disaster on Monday, mate.”The boys switched ties. My first class was a mess, so to try and learn from my mistakes, I’m going to dedicate the first five minutes to questions. ” he hurriedly added, as excited whispers began spreading across the classroom. She’d been taking notes.“How did you get away from them? Albus nudged him a moment later.“There she is,” he said needlessly. She was laughing, flanked by two fifth year Gryffindor girls, her arms locked around a planner just like the ones Hermione had given Scorpius and Albus, though hers was a cheery yellow. Scorpius waved automatically when Rose turned and sought them out. I’m looking forward to Uncle Harry’s; the Hufflepuffs said it was brilliant in Herbology.”Albus and Scorpius exchanged a quick, stunned look.“You’re sitting with us? Scorpius glanced up at his dad, wondering suddenly if the sight made him miss Astoria. He stared at the wand halves, completely severed except for the thin red feather holding them together. I never knew that I was like that—I never knew I could be like that. “And I’m scared to be without it.”He didn’t even think about it. I don’t need it—I’ve done all my work in Transfiguration, then I’ve got Potions, then History of Magic. And tell your dad—sorry, but he has to know—and as soon as you get a replacement, you can give it back.”He pressed his wand into her hands. She sniffed again.“You’re nicer than Albus.”“I’m his better half,” Scorpius joked. They were due back now at any moment, and Harry had promised to bring them all sweets, so everybody was rightfully excited.“I hope he remembered the chocolate frogs,” Albus said. Well—here are your sweets, try not to eat them all tonight. But that’s loads better than a ten out of ten like it was before.

Harry was kneeling on a particularly damp patch of tilled earth and dripping with sweat. "I loathe to express anything negative about any child's sorting, simply because I know what a sensitive subject it often is, but I have to admit…not a day passes that I don't wish my house had gotten the full Potter set." Harry smiled. And Scorpius Malfoy." "Oh yes, the professors talk. In my tent." Albus's mouth made an He seemed to realize Charlie wasn't going to offer much more information because he quickly turned back to his previous task. "You don't think…Fred and Roxanne knew I had them in my tent, do you? I'd hate to think that Fred or Roxanne would steal a dragon, Charlie." "I doubt they would, too. But he had to remind himself to be logical and honest about his children’s faults. ” “I didn’t think anything of it at the time, because I didn’t have any reason to believe she knew I had dragons in the tent nor that my conversation would hold any significance to her, but she must’ve known enough to gather context clues from what she overheard. “I my clock was lying when it showed you three at Ginny and Harry’s after midnight! Ginny was still sitting on the counter, and even though Harry had previously readjusted her gaping dressing gown, he thought it was pretty clear what they’d been up to. George was wheezing from lack of air due to his laughter. And Harry was having a wonderful time listening to the mingled sounds of all the conversation. I couldn’t even drive the motorbike afterwards…--” “Morning! He smiled once at Lily, but her smile had faded rapidly. He slowly put down his letter and offered her a smile. Hopefully he’ll be able to manage his time wisely.” Horace’s smile diminished. A Potter in my House—I was prouder than you could’ve imagined! But he refuses to talk with me more than he has to. And Ginny says his bat-bogey is nearly as good as hers.” There was a brief silence. Ask yourselves how your children would feel if their personal lives were plastered all over the front of the , for everybody in our world to see. While they read, he’d begun tidying things for his first class of the day. He tapped the top of his desk nervously with his other hand.“Your sister. They were laughing as they rounded the corner, Albus vehemently refusing to admit that he was frightened of the rat, when Scorpius spotted Lily, most likely having just left DADA. “Me too.”Scorpius and Albus marched over to Lily and Carrow. It’s not your turn yet, so I suggest you continue on to class.”Scorpius laughed. ”His laughter severed off once Halloran turned his cold eyes to Scorpius’s. Scorpius felt Albus’s hand touch his again, and when he looked down, Albus was staring forward with After lunch and Divination, their day ended with double Charms, this time with the Gryffindors. He was surprised Slughorn hadn’t hexed Carrow himself.“So what’s the plan? It was nice.“Or,” Ginny interrupted, her voice quiet, mindful of Lily asleep across her lap. He climbed a staircase at Peeves’s prompting, went down another corridor, and he’d just decided that Peeves had led him on a pointless chase when he spotted her. She lifted her head from her arms and wiped at her streaming eyes. He looked to Lily, expecting her to agree, but she was crying again. He perched beside her and hesitantly reached out, patting lightly over her hair.“It’s okay,” he told her gently. It’s okay.”“Y-you don’t even know w-w-what’s wrong,” she wept.“I don’t need to because I know all the people who care about you. His brows were furrowed as Theva stared down his godfather, and Scorpius found it so adorable that he couldn’t help but reach over and take Albus’s warm hand in his. In a roundabout way, Harry Potter humiliated her and undermined her career, because when he defeated Voldemort, it proved she’d been lying all along.

To make matters worse, he was elbow-deep in a bucket of eel eyes. Word is Scorpius Malfoy has a heart of gold." "The word is right. "Thanks." "Make sure to tidy your classroom up before term starts. My instincts tell me she's up to something more than she says." Albus was finishing up his pancakes when Harry returned to the kitchen. He was gripping the sponge so tightly that soapy water was sliding down his sleeve. But I think we ought to stop by—just to talk to them. Those two always know everything about everybody." Harry sensed he wasn't going to get out of accompanying him. “Well, whatever she overheard, it certainly didn’t warrant stealing a baby dragon,” he said. And then she must’ve jumped to the wrong conclusions.” “What sort of conclusions? I know we’re all excited that Rita Skeeter got punched in the face—” Harry had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. “—but as I’ve told you time and time again, it’s not okay to just barge into your sister’s house at odd hours—” “Why? Ron resembled the late Arnold the Pygmy Puff in color. “And Albus— well, I'm sure you understand why I didn't choose him for Prefect...” “Sure," Harry said coldly. He has declined every Slug Club invitation I’ve offered him—” “Probably because you didn’t invite Scorpius Malfoy.” Horace guffawed. ” “Because the Malfoy boy is a great wizard.” Horace looked skeptical. Ask yourselves who’s really at fault here: the Potters and the Malfoys for existing? Or Rita Skeeter for writing recklessly with no thought to whom she might be harming? He seemed less affected by the hostility in the article than Scorpius and Albus did.“But Dad…Rita’s going to…” he trailed off.“Oh, she’s going to go spare, definitely,” Harry agreed. “I wanted to talk to you two about more than just Rita’s article, actually. I fear this is only the start.”Scorpius’s heart was still padded by the kind words Ginny had said about him and Albus. And he was tickled by the idea of Ginny and his dad working side-by-side to counter Rita Skeeter. “I hope Mum makes her cry herself to sleep.”Scorpius didn’t know if he’d go far, but he would’ve liked Rita to learn her lesson about how much words can hurt.“Er…Al? Scorpius went to stand beside Lily, drawing Halloran’s focus from her to him. He pushed Lily’s shoving hands away and glowered at Halloran.“What’s your problem? He quickly slapped his palm over his mouth a second later, embarrassed.“Sorry, it’s just…that’s ridiculous. He held Scorpius’s gaze for a long, uncomfortable moment. Having been with Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff all day, both Scorpius and Albus were dreading the afternoon.“Should we try to say hello? “Jokes on him—she hates her glasses.”“Yeah, that’s what I thought, too, but she was in tears when I found her,” James whispered. “You could make him rewrite all our testimonies from his dad’s trial. She was curled up beneath a cobwebbed window, at the very end of the corridor. It seemed to take her a moment to realize that it was Scorpius.“I-I’m ,” she snapped. Whatever is wrong—they’ll make it right.”“They d-don’t know .”“Oh,” Scorpius said, alarmed. She’s been trying to get back at him and his family ever since.” “Yeah—because Harry Potter lied to get control of our government, so ! I was standing alongside them throughout all of this.

Scorpius Malfoy knew his fifth year would be challenging-- but he hadn't expected this. Meanwhile, Harry Potter discovers that being a professor at Hogwarts is very different from being a student there-- especially when you've got three mischievous children and a handful of students who can't seem to do more than ogle at you. Albus…well, his work ethic mimics mine more closely." "Ah, yes." There was a pause. None of us knew except Hermione and Bill, and they wouldn't say. He wanted to defend every one of her actions until he was blue in the face, because she was his child, and her poor choices, he thought she and all his other kids were the most wonderful little people in the entire world. Nora was playing with three of the Pygmy Puffs and Ginny was talking Quidditch strategy with Scorpius, who’d come down to breakfast nervously mumbling about having doubts about trying out for the team. And then you feign right—and they’ll think you’re psyching them out because they were clearly aiming left—and then they’ll aim—” “—No, Albus, I’m stronger than Muggle ale—” “—Ginny, what if I drop the ball after I catch it, am I allowed to quickly dive down to get it or—” “—You didn’t try this ale, James, it was disgusting and really strong! Harry was touched that he was using the name Lily had given the dragon. “I’ll send for my Slug Club members soon, but first—how are you, Harry? Er…” Harry trailed off, trying to find the gentlest way to decline Horace’s offer. Tell me—I can’t bear to wait: how has Lily’s potion been coming along? I took some and I Quidditch Captain this year, right? Whether or not that was a mistake…only time will tell. When you find yourself wondering if these allegations against Albus and Scorpius are true, ask yourselves why you feel entitled to know that information. Scorpius actually managed to vanish the tail on his rat in Transfiguration, so he was feeling decently optimistic as they headed in the direction of Harry’s classroom.“I don’t understand what I was doing wrong,” Albus groaned. It kept glaring at me...right …unnerving, really.”“Maybe that’s why you couldn’t do it? “Because you’re frightened of it.”Albus elbowed him in the ribs. She wouldn’t let Quinton or Leonard or Evandrus do anything, either,” Aster gestured back towards the opposite end of the hall. A group of third year boys—two Gryffindors, one Ravenclaw—were grouped together and whispering, their eyes locked on Lily and Halloran Carrow. His voice rose near the end of the sentence, just enough that Scorpius made out a rather crude insult, and he scowled. “I’m going over there.”Albus was already withdrawing his wand. Albus looked equally horrified.“We’re going to begin practice today,” Harry said. Scorpius could tell he was getting annoyed.“Oh, like my showering habits? Albus lowered his face back to the desk.“Merlin, kill me, please, Scorpius, just end this…” Scorpius heard him muttering. Albus and Scorpius mainly spent the entire class period huddled in a far corner talking, shooting off Patronuses every now when Harry wandered by, to the envy of their struggling classmates. But most of all, it was nice to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Albus, with no mean words or cruel looks being passed their way. It swooped low over the desks, causing a few people to shriek and scatter out of its way as if it were an actual owl. Could’ve been angry tears, but I think she was frightened. Slughorn was .”Scorpius remembered the way Slughorn had doted on Lily during the Slub Club meeting on the train. “Don’t you remember the speech Uncle George gave us when Lily was born? ”“No—the one about protecting her even when she doesn’t think she needs to be.”“Oh, right,” James remembered. Scorpius could read the furious tension on every line of his body, from his furrowed brow to his hunched shoulders to his balled up fists. He placed a brief hand against the top of Scorpius’s head, his hand smoothing down his hair, and then he stepped back, breaking their embrace.“That certainly sounds like you,” his dad told him. She was sitting practically in her mother’s lap, a blanket draped over her. Scorpius wasn’t willing to risk losing that holiday.“Good,” he dad said. That night, however, he was more attentive and open than Scorpius could remember him being in a long while. ”“She’s —” he swooped down and blew a wet raspberry into Scorpius’s right ear.“Ugh! He shot another glare towards Peeves and turned, heading down the passage to his right. Scorpius let out a relieved sigh.“Thank Merlin he’s gone,” he grumbled. “Okay…” His eyes landed on Claire Theva, who’d immediately lifted her hand into the air. ” Albus hissed softly underneath his breath, affronted. He didn’t even appear to realize he’d said it aloud. She has been ever since they made a fool of her by proving her wrong. She spent the majority of the Second Wizarding World reporting that it was all lies.

L.s, his new relationship, Quidditch tryouts, the public eye, and the Slug Club, he can hardly catch his breath. He hadn't had to work without her since she joined the , over seventeen years ago now. " "Not yet, but I'll have to if I don't receive an answer soon." She came to a stop at the apparition point. He's incredibly bright—he's precisely what you could've been if you'd been granted a normal childhood." He laughed. We would've skived off and put off homework until the last minute even if I'd been a normal kid. “She was outside near my tent one night, and she said she had just arrived to tell me dinner was ready, but I think she must’ve overheard a conversation I was having and misunderstood.” The protective father in Harry longed to hear that it wasn’t his daughter’s fault. Hmm…” he trailed off, leaving Harry full of embarrassed horror, with nothing to do but wait for George to do his comedic worst. Lily and Aster had yet to rise; Charlie was waiting patiently at the breakfast table, a long letter in hand. ” Harry didn’t feel like much needed to be added onto that—Ginny’s voice had been serious and dangerous—but he turned around and narrowed his eyes at Lily. “Lily, I would let anything happen to Opal,” Charlie comforted. “Yes, this’ll do nicely.” He collapsed down onto the seat. And then I told my kids I’d sort of drift between them and their friends…” “Oh, well,” Horace said, “you can just return with them. “If you want Albus in your Slug Club, that’s how you do it. If you’re lucky, they’ll decide to attend.” Harry turned to leave. Shame on you for believing Rita Skeeter’s obscenities for all these years, for believing it, for sending the Potters and the Malfoys countless abusive letters, for making the lives of our children challenging and, at times, quite lonely. “Because she’s your daughter…of all the professors here, you should feel the least worried about Lily Potter.”“Or the most,” Scorpius piped up. Their first class of the day was Transfiguration with Ravenclaw, followed directly after by Defense Against the Dark Arts, this time with Hufflepuff. The Ravenclaws mostly ignored the Slytherins and vice versa. She was standing up against the wall with her arms crossed tightly over her chest. His back was to them, so they couldn’t see his expression, but he was impossible to miss with his shaved head and massive figure.“Why’s Lily talking to a sixth year Slytherin? She looked over at them.“Scorpius, Albus,” she said, relieved. He’s been saying things to Lily, but she won’t let me get Harry or another professor. He glanced past Albus and surveyed the situation again. Halloran seemed to be giving a monologue; he’d yet to shut up. What if he couldn’t do it on the spot and everybody thought he was lying? Scorpius quickly looked away from her and back to Harry. Opening up a time for questions must’ve helped because the fifth year Hufflepuffs and Slytherins actually got a good half-hour of work in. We’re her brothers.”“I don’t think so, Al.”Albus glowered. You weren’t even three yet.”“He repeats it on her birthday every year.”“Is this the speech about locking our broomsticks up at night and never letting her spend alone time with our friends? If you ask me, Mc Gonagall let her favoritism show by letting Dad be the one to discipline Carrow…”Albus didn’t seem soothed. But if Albus was going to fight—well, he’d do anything for Albus. And he cared about Lily, too.“I’ll do something,” he told his boyfriend. His eyes were soft this time, and when he smiled, it made Scorpius want to squirm with glee.“No,” Evvie said sharply. Wouldn’t want to purposely put a target on your back when there wasn’t one beforehand.”“What’s being a Slytherin got to do with ? “I summoned an entire bookcase in Charms.”His dad smiled. In response, his dad jerked his head in the direction of Mrs. She was curled up on the sofa with Lily, who still looked dreadfully upset, her food untouched on the table in front of her. Draco gave him a knowing look in response.“I’ll…handle it,” his dad shot back firmly. There will be no holiday this summer if you get yourself into trouble and injured.”Scorpius frowned. His dad was supposed to take him and Albus to France. Tell me about your day.”Scorpius didn’t need to be asked twice. Slughorn and Mc Gonagall (acting as Gryffindor Head of House against the rules, due to the fact that they still hadn’t acquired one, as both Professor Longbottom and Harry were the only Gryffindor professors and refused to live at Hogwarts) had come by twice already, urging Draco, Ginny, and Harry to leave so their children could return to bed. He always knew that his dad loved him, but he didn’t often seem comfortable showing it. Harry walked back over and took her hand.“He’ll be okay. I was—and still am—best friends with Ginny Weasley.” Everybody was expecting a lecture, so when he set the down and said: “What would you like to know? “I want to know more about these Horcruxes, my mum always said it seemed fake—” “What about both Potters being possessed? Should we really have let people like that control any aspect of the government? Actually…should we have let war-scarred teenagers have any say in the government in the first place?! ” Professor Longbottom sat on his stool at the end of the table. ” “With all due respect, Professor, I’m not certain any answers from you are answers at all.” “Hey! So—I’m going to listen to her.” Professor Longbottom's jaw actually dropped. “Claire, have you even actually prejudiced against the Potters. I know what happened and I won’t let Rita Skeeter rewrite history.” “You don’t even know my parents,” Albus said suddenly to Claire.