Chapter 13 A Looming Shadow

The Goblin’s Amulet

Chapter 13: A Looming Shadow

Charms class was interesting to say the least. Professor Ackerly was teaching a Charm to sew quickly and easily but Albus saw it as a way to seal his pockets too. He even had Alexis help him with the Charm till he mastered it.

“Al, your pronouncing it wrong,” Alexis pointed out. “Signus. The ‘g’ is silent. Pronounced ‘seenyus.’ It’s easy.”

And after her pointer, it was easy. She pat his back and walked out, bag over her shoulder. After Charms, Albus and Scorpius elected to stay around until Professor Ackerly had left. It was that room where they were to meet Mark. For Mark had done as promised. Albus met with him too alongside Scorpius in a room where they made good on their wagers. Mark handed Albus and Scorpius a list of passwords he got from a Prefect and Scorpius told him the password to the Slytherin Common room. Viper. At first, it seemed easily given but then, deception had started. Mark folded his arms and asked, “Where is the Slytherin Common Room?”

Scorpius smirked and leaned against the wall, “We agreed on passwords, not location. Sorry, Wallader.”

Mark looked shocked and half angry and Albus actually expected Mark to hit him. But he did not expect Mark to smirk and shrug, “Oh, well I guess we’re even. ‘Cause we never agreed to keep it from the Fat Lady, did we? Consider her tipped off to your charade. And I will find out where your Common room is so… better luck next time.”

He nodded at them both and walked right out of the room, Scorpius staring after him in shock. Once out of earshot, Scorpius sighed and shrugged, “Might be a friend… but still a snake.”

“Now we’re friends though, I can admire the slick moves he can pull,” Albus laughed.

“You realize that you lose in this too,” Scorpius said pointedly. “I thought you wanted in.”

Albus shrugged, “You heard Mark. I can go in any time I want. And the Fat Lady knows me. Face it, Scorps. The only loser here is you.”

But Mark soon became a loser as well. The only one who benefited from the wager was the party who never took part in it. Albus did not yet memorize the whole list but he knew the first two passwords, Flobberworm and Chimera. It did not matter how many times it was changed. But the Slytherins changed their password soon enough and for good reason. Slytherin winning the match, while unprecedented thanks to Hugo, put Jennifer in good spirits and rumor had it she even had a meeting with Lorcan Scamander concerning Chasing tactics. But rumors were not concentrated on Quidditch. Whispers had started and Albus had a good idea where the whispers originated from. Students whispered amongst each other, some with heads poured over the Daily Prophet as if looking for a piece that was simply not there, some eyeing other suspiciously, fueling a great deal of suspicion and distrust among Hogwarts students and even staff… and this distrust led to a change of passwords among the houses.

But with the school-wide changes, Mark did not only lose the location of the Slytherin Common room but he lacked the password to it too and he had Soto to thank for that, for he was the subject of all whispers and his son the instigator (or so Albus was certain.) Rumor had started, by word of mouth from the Hogs Head to the Three Broomsticks and up to Hogwarts, that the Purifiers had taken over Hogsmeade and Incommodo had been imprisoned for running out on the Ministry.

Albus did not know how much of it were fact because the idea of Incommodo being imprisoned was absurd. But he had every reason to believe that after having been pushed into a corner, Soto Lean hit back and was effectively holding the entire village hostage. That way, even the Ministry could not lift a finger against him for fear of getting anybody hurt.

But what mystified Albus the most was Hagrid’s absence that week, cancelling Care of Magical Creatures. His hut was boarded up and locked, the creatures he kept were gone and the forest looked darker than usual, cast a greater shadow over the grounds than before. Something foreboding was lurking within. Perhaps it was due to the adventure Albus had within the previous year, but he could feel it.

And sure enough, due to the increased pressure, Mark cornered Albus in a corridor, for the first time in a while, wand on him threateningly. Albus was against the wall for his hands up, feeling very vulnerable now. What had gotten over him?

“Sorry to do this, Al,” Mark breathed. “But… you need to give the passwords back… now.”

“Whoa, c’mon, Mark”-

“This isn’t funny, Al!” Mark yelled. “Just listen to me, ok? We’re not the only ones terrorized by Soto now. If someone knows passwords where they shouldn’t… face it, Al. You’re a crack in the security right now.”

Was Mark just upset because he lost more than Albus did? Was that likely? Or was Mark truly frightened? He kept his wand on Albus, a small smirk playing his mouth, “Accio password sheet!”

Albus yelped as Mark caught it triumphantly. Albus kept his hands up, still feeling threatened. “Will you put your damn wand down?”

Mark obliged, looking a little apologetic, “Sorry, Al. I’ll make it up to you another way… just not with passwords.” And as he spoke, there was a shake to his voice, a certain tinge of uncertainty and part fright. His legs were shaking and he was breathing heavily. Now he was no longer at wand point, Albus noticed Mark’s skin was graying and his eyes sunken and shadowed for lack of sleep.

“You- you’re really tense, aren’t you?” Albus asked.

“Not just me,” Mark said quietly, wand still lowered and looking down. “It’s Lily, Al.”

It was like an old fear had hit home once again. Lily. She was unsafe. Now, more than ever. Something in the forest was moving, something Teddy was on to, Hagrid was absent and Hogsmeade was captured. Hogwarts was surrounded. There was no way out. “What about Lily?”

“She’s scared to death!” Mark spat like it bothered him a lot too. “And after the twins gave Malcolm a bloody eye, Malcolm swore to hit back… at Hugo’s weakest point and Al, we both know who that is. He tried Jinxing her yesterday and she nearly broke her arm before third year Dueling class. Nothing is right anymore, Al. And she’s terrified. If Malcolm tried breaking her arm…”

Albus collapsed against the wall, worried more than he had ever been in his life. Even when that second when he thought Mark would die in second year had been dwarfed. Lily was his sister. Hugo was his cousin. “Look after her, Mark,” Albus said quietly. “If I can’t be in the Common room, you have to keep an eye on her.”

Mark shook his head, “She’s safest in there. James has his eyes on her and no one gets past me. You know that. It’s when she’s out that she’s in trouble.”

But since Mark had told Albus the problem, Lily had been safe. Nothing else had happened except Malcolm mysteriously being given a bloody nose to go with the bloody eye of his and rumor had it that James was the gift-giver.

And like that, as if James had somehow fixed everything, things quieted down and Albus took full advantage of it. Albus of course, quickly made use of the passwords and did exactly as he hoped to do first chance he got. He ventured up to the Fat Lady during lunch that Sunday, Invisibility cloak packed (the amulet was hidden temporarily in a smelly sock) when most students were venturing downstairs, Invisibility cloak in hand just in case, and stopped in front of the Fat Lady. The Fat Lady looked irritated as it seemed she had been about to leave for another portrait when Albus popped up and said “Chimera.”

The Fat Lady seemed very suspicious and raised an eyebrow, “You’re no Gryffindor.”

“I’m supposed to fetch something for my brother quickly,” Albus said hurriedly, hoping he was sounding convincing. “Change the password after, just… I need to get in.”

“Oh, whatever, but I’m reporting this, you know,” she said warningly and swung open. Just as she swung and Albus left her eyesight, he swept on his Invisibility cloak and ran in, passing a couple of first years wrapping up a Gobstones Game. He rushed into James’ dormitory and started rummaging through the belongings of the seven bags left by the beds, careless as to how suspicious it may look. He felt the time pass the longer it took, getting worried that someone may come in. But within five minutes, the yellow parchment was in his hands, he quickly used a Cleaning Charm Alexis had shown him the year before, and rushed back downstairs, leaving along with the first years, hugging the wall and slipping out with them.

The theft of the map would not go unnoticed by James but Albus had to take it one step at a time. What mattered was that for the time being, he had the map and the passwords if he ever needed them again and slowly, the rumors had stopped spreading. It became common knowledge. The school forgot about Hogsmeade. The week after, Hagrid came back and the Daily Prophet came in with news that the Goblins would be visiting next month to search the school. It seemed that if the Purifiers were in control of Hogwarts, Goblins were still getting in to search for their lost item.

But before any of that happened, Albus had a Quidditch game to practice for. If Albus believed that the tension was done and over with in Hogwarts though, he was mistaken and Albus learned that the hard way come the next Quidditch game Slytherin was scheduled to have with Ravenclaw. The second match arrived at the end of the month and as usual, Jennifer lectured them all before sending them out there.

Quidditch against Ravenclaw also meant facing Alexis Ackerly. Since they had practiced together, they both knew each other’s moves, especially after Albus was forced to go all out against Hugo the previous match. As the two teams walked out, facing each other, Jennifer and the Quidditch Captain shaking hands and Alexis throwing a quick nod to Albus, they took off.

The game went into full gear immediately, Slytherin scoring a quick goal during an unfortunate sneeze by the Ravenclaw keeper. Alex was yelling enthusiastically at the top of his voice as the game went on, “Slytherin Chaser Lorcan Scamander dodges well against Alexis… she steals it! And look who’s here? Albus Potter swerves up and steals it!”

Alex was calling for a kissing scene as they tussled for the Quaffle once again, whooping in laughter making Alexis go red. She successfully stole the Quaffle from him and scored an equalizing goal, prompting Alex to yell his pun “Demonic Equalizer! 10-10 to both teams.”

Albus stopped by Jennifer, who hovered by the goal posts. “Potter! Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way! I want you to knock that girl off her broom, no mercy. Apologize after the game.”

“Wha”-

A sudden jerk of Albus’ broom shot him back, ironically knocking Jennifer off. “Slytherin Keeper down again! Wow, that Keeper is weak! And turned on by Potter too! Ackerly comes in…”

She made a shot. Albus swerved in and barely managed to stop it but not being Keeper, Alexis came in and tried stealing it. Just when she flew in on him, Albus’ broom shot up violently. Then, calm again. Alexis looked up, half concernedly before flying up to try stealing it again. As she hovered in midair for a bit, as if waiting to see if Albus was going to do what she thought was another dodge, confusion in the stands reigned.

“It seems the game has stopped over some… well, what looks like what may be a romantic confrontation between Potter and Ackerly,” Alex Wallaby explained. “We’ll leave them be for a bit to sort their problems out.”

“Wallaby”-

“Professor, what does it look like to you?”

Albus’ broom did a violent lurch and a very bad feeling washed over him. It jerked back again and Alexis’ eyes widened in understanding and horror. Alex had stopped commentating and Albus dropped the Quaffle as he hung on to his wildly jerking broom for dear life. It was throwing him off, as if it decided that it played too many games and wanted out. The broom was rejecting him.

“We- have a rather… strange”-

“THIS MATCH IS CANCELLED!” Vulneroman’s loud, booming and growling voice boomed out through the megaphone. The crowd’s screamed. “THERE IS A JINXED BROOM ON THE FIELD! ALL PLAYERS DOWN IMMEDIATELY!”

Professor Phoenix got up worriedly and watched. Despite a clear order for the players to get down, Alexis remained up in the air. She opted for chasing the broom aggressively. By the time Albus was over a hundred feet high, Alexis ignored all teacher’s calls for her to get down and whipped out her wand. “IMMOBULUS!”

The Immobilizing Charm was so powerful, it managed to freeze the Jinxed broom for just a few seconds. Though no powerful Jinx like that could have been beaten down by a simple Charm, Alexis managed to get in close and scoop Albus’ also-frozen form onto her broom. She muttered a short spell to unfreeze him and dove down.

It seemed that her will had won out and yet again, Alexis had saved him. But when they were twenty-five feet high, even her broom started lurching and jerking and twitching violently. The Jinx was being very persistent and now two brooms were in danger. Albus’ broom zoomed in and struck Albus at the back of the head just as Alexis’ broom violently went upside down and jerked once, finally throwing them both off.

For a moment, Albus thought he was going to die. But Master Cantharis, red-faced and furious flew in on his broom and caught Alexis and Scorpius Malfoy zoomed in and caught Albus. And before either brooms could jerk, they managed to land. Albus thought he saw Scorpius’ broom twitch once as they got closer to the ground but it was too late.

Madam Pomfrey rushed out onto the field as Phoenix ordered every student inside by megaphone. “I don’t care how close you claim you are, everyone inside now! Macmillan, Vulneroman, with me! All Prefects lead your houses back in. Head Boys in charge of the Common room. NOW!”

So strong was his command, no one dared argue. The students rushed inside by lead of the Prefects. Scorpius made to listen too, but Cantharis screamed, as if it was his own fault, “Malfoy, you stay! Stand guard over Potter. Professor Phoenix…”

Albus had never seen this side of Cantharis before. Phoenix rushed up to where they where they were, Vulneroman and Macmillan at his heels. “Ackerly is furious,” Macmillan was saying.

“Let him be!” Phoenix said carelessly, eyes focused on Albus. “Potter, talk to me. What happened?”

Albus could not answer right away. Neither, it seemed could Alexis. Albus was too much in shock. Something inside him had snapped, broken in two and Alexis was shaking, as if suffering a short seizure. Phoenix did not press it either. He backed up once and looked over at Macmillan, “Fetch Professor Era. Tell her to prepare Veritaserum for every student and staff in Hogwarts. When I discover who…”

Albus had began to shudder too. He felt very cold and his eyes wide, as if he himself was Jinxed. Phoenix petrified both him and Alexis to stop the shuddering and turned to Madam Pomfrey. “Take them to the hospital wing and administer two doses of the Draught of Living Death Era will provide.”

“Headmaster, I must protest the use of”-

“NOW!”

Madam Pomfrey conjured up stretchers for the both of them. Albus’ body felt like it was going to shake until death when it was free of its bind. He was sure Alexis felt the same thing but he could not fathom what had happened. Both brooms were Jinxed. Both. And somehow, both riders were fine despite an obvious intent to kill, both of them if necessary.

Phoenix turned to Scorpius and said, “Malfoy, accompany me.”

“I didn’t”-

“Do NOT argue with me at this time,” Phoenix said strictly, and took him by the arm.

Madam Pomfrey shook her head and brought them up to the Hospital wing, muttering something about ‘Dumbledore’ and ‘carelessness.’ It was not long before Madam Pomfrey had placed them both on separate beds and stared. The Charm Phoenix had cast was wearing off and Albus could feel the shaking coming back. Alexis was already having a full seizure. He hated seeing her like that. And against her better judgment, Madam Pomfrey administered the Draught of Living Death to her, a phial of black liquid. And before he could protest, Albus was administered it too and his entire world went black.

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