The Goblin’s Amulet
Chapter 10: The All-Hallows Date
When Halloween came, the students were given the day before and the day itself mercifully off by their teachers, who took the time to put up Halloween decorations. Albus thought he could take advantage of this freedom to tell Mark about Soto and Seth but, alas, Mark was not available. And it did not look like he was ever going to be. Not with Aries on his tail. The one girl more forceful and plenty more annoying than Laura ever was.
In fact, of all times for springtime romance to bloom, Albus did not expect Halloween to be it. But, with people like Scorpius and Aries hopelessly chasing after their respective love interests, it could not have been any other day. Mark was not allowed anywhere without Aries V. Kimble tailing him and Laura finally appeared to be lax and calm about it all. What was more, the day before Halloween was the day Scorpius chose to make his move just as Albus was about to give it up on talking to Mark.
Albus was not sure, but he believed his talk with Laura spurred her to seriously consider putting Mark aside for the first time in three years. By lunchtime, Scorpius came and sat down next to Albus looking particularly happy, “Well, I did it! Laura is allowing me to take her on a date tomorrow.”
Albus widened his eyes in slight shock, “Really?”
“Yeah,” Scorpius said happily and he started going into detail of his composure and speech to Laura with Albus only half with him, thinking mainly of Mark.
But it became clear that Mark was not allowed to have any time to even think of Albus who had been trying to get him alone for ages to tell him about Seth. He was beginning to think he would have to force Mark to be alone because as he understood, Aries would be having Mark to herself that day. Even the twins were cast aside.
Albus walked up to the Gryffindor table tentatively and over to where Mark sat with Alex, Eric and Aries. “Good luck,” Eric muttered to him half sarcastically as Albus stood behind Mark expectantly, prepared to try one last time to get his attention. Alas, Mark’s attention was with Aries. He seemed really bothered and very powerless to stop her talking. Even when he tried speaking, “Aries, why now? Can’t I spend Hogsmeade with my friends?”
“Mark, I’ve never been to Hogsmeade before,” Aries said matter-of-factly. “And I’ll need you to show me around. Besides, we’re going so we can continue”-
“We’re fourteen!” Mark said incredulously.
“Yeah, so in four short years, we’ll be married,” Aries reminded him. “If we’re going to get to that stage, we need to work towards it and Merlin knows we have catching up to do since my seven year absence”-
“Mark!” Albus said loudly and with more force Albus knew he had. Aries jumped and looked at Albus with discontent. Mark on the other hand looked relieved and Albus took the opportunity to give a fake, exasperated apology, “I’m sorry to interrupt what I am sure was a very romantically tender moment but I really need to talk to my friend and it’s pretty damn urgent.”
Mark was so relieved, he allowed Albus to drag him away by the arm. “Thanks, Al,” he said when they were out of earshot.
“That girl is starting to annoy me,” Albus said quietly through gritted teeth. “I can’t even talk to you anymore and in case you haven’t noticed, the twins’ nerves are being tested.”
Mark, for the first time looked very clueless as he scratched his hair sheepishly, “Yeah, I’m counting on that. Wait, can you get rid of her?”
“How am I supposed to do that?” Albus challenged.
“I dunno, you’re the snake, figure it out,” Mark shrugged. “You got the venom for it, don’t you?”
“Shut up!” Albus said exasperatedly. “This is important. Listen, it’s about Soto.”
Mark widened his eyes in surprise and shock before gathering himself and whipping his wand out, “Muffliato.”
Neither Albus nor Mark, let alone Lily had spoken to each other about that man since they had met him over the summer. He had become a sort of taboo topic between the three. Nonetheless, Albus ploughed on, telling Mark all he could without compromising the letters. He told Mark about Seth, and what must have seemed to Mark like a random dropdown hint, ‘My father is being held by the Arsenal.’
When Albus finished, Mark looked thoughtful. Exactly as Albus wanted to see him. Then, the boy grew serious and said quietly, “So, he’s been writing to you too, huh?”
Albus feigned dumb, “N-No.”
“Don’t hide it,” Mark whispered. “He’s sending me letters, I figured he’d do the same to you. Plus, no boy drops an offhand comment like that. Soto told you, not Seth. Anyways, no one can hear us here. So- So, Seth is Soto’s boy. But their last names are no secret. For all we know, Soto wanted us to figure this out. If anything, him being held hostage only means that he is not really part of the Arsenal, but has to keep up public appearances so he’s forced to be in. It only means we’ve got more than just Incommodo and the Goblins to worry about. It’s an indirect way of scaring us.”
“Incommodo’s out though,” Albus recalled.
“Yeah, true,” Mark agreed. “Maybe with Incommodo out of the picture… and if the Goblins find that object of theirs… things will die down and we can manage him in peace.”
Albus was on the verge of telling him about the amulet but he kept his mouth shut. It was bad enough Mark knew that Albus and Soto were in fact communicating. Telling Mark about the amulet would only make things explode. Albus just nodded and Mark had just enough time to pat his shoulder when they were interrupted.
At first, Albus thought it was Aries but it turned out to be Alexis. Mark muttered something about an angry red hen and walked back to the Gryffindor table. Alexis smiled easily before leaning against the wall. “Mark bothering you?”
“Actually, I was bothering him,” Albus corrected. “His… well, a girl is giving him trouble.”
“Ah, yes, the fiancée bit,” Alexis said humorously. “That is so ridiculous.”
“Tell her that,” Albus shrugged. “Need anything?”
Alexis snapped out of it and looked at Albus again, a small smile playing on her lips. “Yes, actually. I was… wondering if you had anything to do tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow?” Albus repeated, knowing exactly where this was going. Since their one-time date the previous year, Albus wondered if Alexis would ask him for another one. “No, Scorps is dating Laura now and I don’t think I’ll ever see Mark again so… completely bored. Do you- want to- g-go with me?”
“Just a lunch,” Alexis offered.
Albus knew exactly what this meant. Though unexpected, a date with Alexis meant a break from thinking about Soto and worrying about Lily. He nodded absent-mindedly before snapping out of his trance, “Erm… how about we just go for Honeydukes, and we take our sweets and a Butterbeer to the Quidditch pitch and eat there.”
Alexis brightened up, a little surprised at Albus’ sudden idea, “Wow, I like that better. So, we dump Hogsmeade early and make straight for home? Meet you here around noon tomorrow and we’ll set off?”
The time was set and for a short day, soon to be two, Albus was allowed to put aside his worries. This date was so perfectly timed, Alexis once again made everything better for him. Nothing could ruin this. Nothing. Not even Soto. A man whom Albus was not particularly afraid of any longer.
The crow disappeared with the letter in its beak and Albus allowed himself an easy sleep. And the next day passed so quickly, the agreed upon time was descending at last. Come noon, Albus and Alexis walked off together, once again happily holding hands, all troubles forgotten. Cantharis was standing at the gates, his pooch sniffing everyone who passed.
Albus could see Rose and Daniel Dagger, who still wore that baseball cap of his, walking together. It was strange that Rose fell for someone like Daniel, and stranger that he managed to hold her for a whole year. Philip Macmillan of Hufflepuff claimed Daniel spent every moment with her during lunch or breaks and Neville’s daughter Adrianna knew that Rose talked about Daniel in the Gryffindor Common room.
The day had started looking up so much, Albus thought it was impossible to bring it down. So, he was of course in for a real shock. When they finally reached Hogsmeade, Albus and Alexis fought through a throng of people to make it to the Three Broomsticks. When they finally made it to the front door, Alexis sighed and turned to him, “I’ll fetch the sweets from Honeydukes, shall I? You go and get us some Butterbeers and we’ll meet at the main road for a treat at the pitch.”
“Sure,” Albus smiled, aware that for the first time, he could genuinely smile without feeling forced or artificial in any way.
Five minutes and Albus was outside the Three Broomsticks carrying two Butterbeers and waiting for him was Alexis Ackerly, three full bags of sweets in her hands and a wide smile on her face. And staring at it, Albus felt a sudden urge to kiss that smile. The two walked back towards Hogwarts, took their turn at the gates and towards the Quidditch pitch, which as Alexis knew, was completely free.
Once they sat down, Alexis herself had a big surprise for Albus. This surprise did not come in the form of an object but simple words. A surprising event that forcibly reminded Albus of Soto but made him rethink his attitude on the whole situation.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you,” she said casually as they got started on some chocolate frog cards, “Oooh, wait. Have Agrippa?”
“Um, I have about three of him,” Albus shrugged.
Alexis shrugged and put her card aside. “Anyways, last summer, guess who decided to grace our abode with his presence?”
“Soto Lean,” she said as if she did not expect Albus to believe her.
Albus nearly choked on his frog and ended up spitting it out, making a tremendous fool of himself. Alexis quickly cleaned the mess with her wand. Albus did not know what to say. Soto visited her too? But why? What was special about Alexis’ family that required his attention?
“But”- he spluttered. “Why?”
“He was hoping my dad could get him a job at Hogwarts,” she said with a strange smile that suggested that Albus was not the only one with something to hide.
A job at Hogwarts…
“That’s what he wants from me,” Albus noted to himself in slight surpise. Soto had a lot of guts to ask for something like that.
“N-nothing,” Albus stuttered quickly. “Erm… ok, so he visited you. What happened?”
“Father rejected him and informed Professor Phoenix and your dad,” she said simply. “So… he was cast aside.”
Albus kept quiet. He could not tell Alexis his troubles. If she was already involved somewhat, telling her would only increase the amount of trouble she had. Albus would never let that happen. Before he could cast around for a change of subject, Alexis cleared her throat and jumped up, “Anyways, Quidditch, right? C’mon, show me your best.”
The very mention of their favorite sport made Albus smile again. The rest of the day was spent in the air, the two coaching each other on different maneuvers and moves to pull. Albus learned a lot from her and if he was not mistaken, so did she. The year before, Albus and Alexis tussled in midair over the Quaffle and she narrowly won that tussle. For Alexis to nonetheless offer to teach him some moves, as if she wanted him to beat her, meant so much. It quickly became the highlight of their day.
The two also alternated in playing keeper, a position both were not too good at. They even shared a laugh when Albus attempted to hit the ball in, and though Alexis fell for the feint, the Quaffle hit the hoop itself instead and dropped to the ground below. As they both landed, Alexis put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Al, if you intend on playing like that in our next game, you’re gonna lose and Ravenclaw is taking the cup.”
The two nonetheless decided that was enough for the day and finished their sweets off as they walked back to the castle. They had just made it too for the Hogsmeade visitors were returning as well, marking a real end to an otherwise great day. They finally separated with a promise to see each other on the Quidditch pitch later that year and Albus returned to the Common room.
Walter and Riley had come back and were trading chocolate frog cards at the back but Scorpius was still not back from the date he said he had. Albus returned to the dormitory himself only to find a black crow perched on his bed. He widened his eyes and rushed over, seizing the letter from Soto. For a wonder, Albus was not as worried. However, Soto always had something up his sleeve. It read:
I discovered your contact with the boy I told you about. Well done. Now, Incommodo is out of the picture but the Goblins are due to arrive at Hogwarts just before Christmas and if they find the amulet- and they will- your sister’s life will not be the only one at stake. The Goblins will kill you and your family for this treachery. If you plan to survive this year, you will do well to do as I ask. My next assignment for you is to pass a message to Professors Redgrow and Phoenix. Tell them both the final piece of the puzzle is looking to be placed. The ball is in their court.
Albus really did not know how to respond. The crow had disappeared just as the dormitory opened for Walter and Riley to walk in. He just climbed into bed, though it was earlier than nine, and lay down. He vaguely heard Scorpius come in next but he did not open conversation. The kids were strangely quiet that night, as if the tension in the air was felt by all. Albus had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach that somewhere, something bad was going to happen.
Not too far away, Soto stood on a ledge overlooking Hogsmeade from a mountain. Beside him was Orgella and Rufeus, the former smiling slightly, “Incommodo is on his way. He should be here for you shortly.”
“Good,” Soto said. “We’ll see that he never sees the light of his office again. We’ll install a new Head to his old post and see to it I achieve my ultimate goal.” Soto looked upon the village with hidden glee before smirking with pride and saying, “Move the Purifiers into Hogsmeade. The village is now under our supervision. I will take care of Mors,” he added as the man in question landed in front of him.
The men stared each other for what must have been a whole minute. Then, Incommodo’s wispy voice sounded, “Impressive, how elusive you manage to be. How destructive to my plans you proved yourself.”
“Indeed,” Soto said quietly, fingering his wand readily. “Funny, how you have the gull to show yourself in a village where you are barely welcome.”
Incommodo did not seem amused any longer. Slowly, he withdrew a wand from his holder, “Soto Lean, we are no longer allies. No, since your despicable action… you’ve become nothing more or less than an enemy.”
And as Incommodo said this with the strongest voice yet, a jet of green light erupted from his wand. Soto barely managed to avoid it. He leapt to the side and withdrew his own wand. He confronted Incommodo fearlessly for the first time. Jets were fired mercilessly, so brightly that even the villagers took concern of what was happening in the skies above.
Soto summoned a snake to hold Incommodo off. The snake vaporized into ashes and smoke, which Soto charmed to cover Incommodo. As Incommodo managed to dissipate the smoke, Soto took flight on his own broom, firing a spell at Incommodo’s broom, destroying it. Incommodo stared in unmistakable rage as he stared up at Soto.
“Don’t bother Apparating, I protected these mountains so you can’t do it,” Soto yelled from the air. “The Ministry may not imprison you but I- have other jobs and they no longer include you. Consider your little group hijacked!”
Soto easily swerved out of the way from another spell and flew off triumphantly, leaving Mors Incommodo on the ledge. And down below, in the village where Soto landed, he could see very clearly a horde of Witches and Wizards overrunning the place. No resistance was put up, no spells fired, not even a scuffle. The Purifiers were overtaking the place. As far as they were concerned, they had won.