The weather jad long begun to slowly warm up as there were now more warm sunny days, between the storms. Making sure to wear warm jumper to keep the early morning chill away, Rowan made her way down to the carriages and was the first one to depart. The morning air felt rather cool against her face, but nothing that made her shiver with bitter chills. Across the lake, ripples could be seen as the Giant Squid moved beneath the inky black waters. The bare trees were full of tiny green buds that were preparing themselves to unfurl as the early spring flowers were already in bloom.
The carriage rolled to a neat stop as Rowan jumped out and briskly headed over to the Hogs Head Inn. She'd received a rather abrupt letter from Alphard requesting that she come to the inn again. She hadn't heard anything from Moody, so it couldn't be anything dangerous. And she had just met with Alphard not too long ago. What could it possibly be?
Turning the corner, Rowan paused to glance back as was her custom see if she was being followed and managed to glimpse someone hurriedly pressing themselves into the corner. Narrowing her eyes, she quickly walked around the corner and ran towards a large statue before a shop. Ducking down behind the large marble part, she waited and watched as a large hooded figure ran past where she was hidden. It was a Slytherin student as she could see the colored scarf peeking out.
Rowan waited for the footsteps to fade away before darting across the street and taking another route to Hogs Head Inn. It would seem in the future that she may need to limit their meeting times. Whether it was her stalker or not, someone was following her. She'd need to find out who.
Unlike the time before the Hogs Head Inn was closed with a sign that read in bold letters, "CLEANING."
"Cleaning?" Rowan said in disbelief and she wasn't the only one. A crowd of people were staring in disbelief as some muttered in all their years of living that they'd never seen the Hogs Head Inn be closed for something like cleaning. But then again, maybe the owner had finally been visited by the ministry as certain unsavory transactions did regularly transpire on the premise.
About to leave, Rowan heard a, psst. Glancing around, she sees a hand gesture her from around the building as she warily takes a closer step while holding her wand tightly in hand. Turning the corner, she is roughly pulled into the barn filled with goats. She wrinkles her nose at the smell as the long, wiry, gray-haired wizard roughly said, "Hurry up and follow me."
Rowan quickly did as she was told following the grumbling bartender/owner up the stairs. He leads her to main room that holds a crackling fire with a weary looking man dozing in the armchair in the fireplace.
The room was rather faded as an old bookshelf stood in a corner. The rest of the furniture was old including the ancient, dusty carpet across the wooden floor. The only regularly dusted item in the entire room was hanging over the mantelpiece, a painted portrait of a girl with chest length golden hair that was pulled back. Her bright blue eyes stared straight ahead as she cradled a book in her arms.
Rowan's eyes widened in recognition of the girl in the portrait, Ariana Dumbledore. Luckily, Aberforth had his back turned towards her and failed to see her shocked reaction.
Glancing over, Rowan froze at seeing how sickly Alphard looked. He truly looked like death warmed over. And she hadn't even seen him that long ago. His sickness shouldn't be progressing so drastically, but then again, he'd be dead before the end of her 5th year. And there was no telling if he'd died even earlier than that.
Aberforth's blue eyes seemed rather cold today from behind his spectacles. His gray beard that reached his chest was actually neatly combed as if he'd at least bothered to run a crush through his hair. Aberforth motioned for Rowan to step inside as she walked over to Alphard to gently wake him up. Aberforth locked the door behind them and leaned back to rest against the locked door.
With a tired start, Alphard awoke, before saying, "Thank you, Rowan."
"You look worse, Alphard," Rowan said a bit more harshly she intended too.
"I am worse," Alphard chuckled with bitterness and exhaustion.
Not caring if he was rude, Aberforth loudly interrupted them. "I closed my pub for this, Black? You said that it was URGENT!"
"It is," Alphard wheezed to only be overcome by a spasm of coughs. The fit lasted for more than a minute before Alphard wiped his mouth clean and tiredly leaned back in his seat. "I need you to replace me as a Secret Keeper, Aberforth."
"What?!" Both Rowan and Aberforth shrieked. They both paused to stare at each other as if not trusting the other.
"Why me?" Aberforth asked. "Dumbledore would be much better for this than me! And besides, exactly what am I keeping secret?"
"Me," Rowan softly answered as she stared at Alphard in understanding. There was less time left than she had initially thought. Alphard might die before the year was up. And if so, he was most likely to die in bed too weak to move or do anything. He most likely wanted to put his affairs in order before he was confined to a bed.
"You?" Aberforth asked in confusion as he stared into the eyes that so reminded him of that bastard, Grindelwald.
"Grindelwald," Aberforth whispered not realizing he had done so.
"What of him?" Rowan sharply asked having seen a disturbed look in his eyes.
Aberforth is silent, before glancing up at Ariana, who nods at him. "You have the same eyes as Gellert Grindelwald," Aberforth said as something about his words struck a chord inside of Rowan.
"She's a farseer," Alphard rasped. "If Rowan's eyes remind you of Grindelwald, it is because both of them have a touch of the gift."
"My father is a muggle, it is not an impossibility," Rowan mused out loud causing both to glance at her. "If I remember correctly there was a time period, when Gellert Grindelwald experimented on the subject of transferring magic, bloodline so to speak. Perhaps, there was a survivor of the experiment, a failure, a squib child. Yes, it would make sense, now that I think of it."
Rowan paused, "But then again, my brother and I both belong to an old powerful line, the Princes. We are both naturally as brilliant as our grandfather. And I can be quite persuasive and even manipulative when I wish to be, but those are all Slytherin traits, I suppose."
Turning to stare at Aberforth straight in the eye, she says, "And yet, I cannot ignore the words of the man that once knew Gellert Grindelwald in person. If there is any truth to that, it frankly does not matter to me. I am a Prince, not a Grindelwald."
"Well said," Alphard said with a faint smile as Aberforth apologetically nods his head at her.
Rowan glances away as she puts that seed of doubt away in her mind. Perhaps, there was some truth to Aberforth's words and her own spoken conjecture. She'd only found out about the Hufflepuff and Gryffindor lines because of the Basilisk. Those two lines must have come from her father. And Aberforth wasn't a man to be discounted off lightly. After all, once he'd dueled to a standstill Gellert Grindelwald and his brother, Albus, for neither could best each other.