Chapter 16 Christmas at the Potters

The Goblin’s Amulet

Chapter 16: Christmas at the Potters

Albus stood, still staring at Mark, still surprised. So, Mark managed to figure the password out. Why did he get in? Albus still stood at the hole, closing it for privacy. Mark was holding the amulet by the chains, staring at it interestedly. He turned it over in his hands, studying it, taking a special look at its insignia, two swords crossed over each other. Albus could not understand what Mark was even doing there, let alone talking to him in private grounds. If anybody saw him there, much less saw Albus talking to him…

“Why’d you come here?”

“Since you ran off without even asking me or Ackerly if we were ok, I opted to follow you,” Mark shrugged. “And I told you and Scorpy that I will find your location. Well, I did. It was easy.”

“You’ll be”-

“Relax, Al, even if someone came in, I’m practically buddies with everyone in here,” Mark shrugged. “Unless Malcolm is a frequent visitor.”

Albus did relax a little bit. Neither Walter nor Scorpius would raise too much of a fuss. Riley would be surprised but he was always quiet. He would say nothing. They were safe in there. It was how Mark was getting out that was the problem…

“So… the amulet, Al?”

Albus sighed and hung his head, “It’s mine,” he said casually, holding his hand out for it.

“Oh?” Mark asked as if he hardly believed him. “Then, why is my family’s crest on it?”

“I- wait, what? WHAT?” Albus yelped. For the third time that day, Albus was thrown into unknown waters. He seriously believed he was close to a heart attack. Alexis being Ravenclaw’s Heir was one thing but finding Mark waiting for him to let him know that the amulet had his own Wallader family crest engraved on it. Was this really a Wallader relic? Perhaps Soto had lied to put him on edge and the actual Goblin object was still unknown?

“So… this is yours?” Albus asked.

“I thought you said it’s yours,” Mark said testily. “I’ve never seen this thing in my life. I just wanna know why my family crest is on it. Out with it, Al!” Mark did seem angry at Albus for the first time in a while. Albus tried taking the amulet back but Mark’s fingers were clenched tightly. “It’s mine till I know the details,” Mark said stubbornly. “Well?”

“It’s the Goblin’s Amulet,” Albus said resignedly. “Ok?”

Mark nodded slowly, “Ok. Noted.”

Mark got up, signaling he was about to leave. It seemed anti-climactic to Albus but Mark just shrugged, “In here, I’ve got nothing to say to you. But… you are definitely talking about this when we get home for Christmas.”

Since classes had been cancelled that week as the Goblins launched a more thorough search of Phoenix’s office, the kitchens and the staff room, students were given that week to catch up before going up that weekend. Albus finally managed to break to Scorpius the news that he would not be joining him this year. Scorpius took it rather well other than the initial disappointment. Though Albus tried actively to talk to Alexis alone, he never saw her once since he found out about her heritage. Then, Albus spent hours on the map, watching intently for any sign of foul activity. But Phoenix was always in his office, Orgella never entered the grounds again, and the Goblins came and went.

There was one incident in particular that saw a Goblin fight a House-elf. The elf was nearly killed but a group of Hufflepuffs charged the kitchens and held them all off fearlessly. The Goblins were forced out. They tried to raise charges but Macmillan and Vulneroman put a quick stop to it.

That weekend, after searching and searching, the amulet was not found and the students were allowed to go home. As expected, students were told to leave their bags at school. This might have presented massive difficulty to Albus when trying to get the amulet out of school and he might not have succeeded had Mark not known. Professor Redgrow, as a rarity approached Albus, “You will be taking the Floo Network to your home through my office. Your father’s orders. Considering who he is, a special request has been granted. Come with me.”

Mark and Albus were left in Redgrow’s office for the majority of the day, finishing off the last of their homework and chatting. Albus confided in Mark something he had not told anyone else, not even Scorpius. His recent problem with Alexis. Mark was attentive, barely commenting and just listened as Albus detailed what happened. Finally, evening came and Redgrow entered the office again to tell them that the rest of their family had gotten home safely, the fireplace had been connected and they could leave.

He partook in a quick embrace by his father, quick greetings with Rose, Hugo and the twins who were to stay at the Potter house for the duration of the holidays. “Arrangements by Aunt Hermione,” Harry said grimly. “They’ll all take the basement. Our house is their house this year. Especially since Charlie can’t make it.”

“Why can’t Uncle Charlie come?” Hugo asked sadly.

“Uncle Bill, Percy, Grandma and Granddad Weasley and their families are going to Romania,” Ron said simply. “It’s just us, this year.”

It seemed easy enough and as the holidays went on, the festive lights being lit and the decorations being observed, Albus started hoping Mark had forgotten about the amulet (though Mark was still holding on to it so Albus had to get it back somehow.) Hermione was dictating loudly where the decorations were supposed to be going. In fact, the basement was quickly converted into living quarters and it was more festive and lit up than any other part of the house. And to Albus’ small grin and surprise, right under the mistletoe was none other than Hugo and Lily. They were not doing anything but reading Quidditch Through the Ages, small smiles on each face and a long garland wrapped around their necks.

Albus was on the point of asking them if they wanted any drinks when Mark put a hand on his shoulder, “Don’t bother them. You have to admit, that is ridiculously cute.” Albus was not sure what to make of them but Mark shrugged, “That, Al, is true friendship staring you in the face. Now, look me in the eye and tell me you have that with someone. Anyone.”

“Mark, we’ve been through this”-

“I know,” Mark shrugged. “Just curious. Know anyone?”

“Yeah,” Albus said slowly, forcibly reminded of Alexis. Damn Mark. “I do.”

“And if she’s the only one, Al,” Mark began, getting in closer so no one else could hear and correctly guessing who Albus was thinking of. “You owe her a real apology.”

Albus was on the point of responding when a small, un-Rose like giggle sounded behind them. Both turned and there they saw Alex, handing her a small book on the Theory of Transfiguration. She went deeply red and pecked him a quick kiss on the cheek. Mark kept an eyebrow raised and when out of earshot said, “Now that, I did not see coming.”

“Guess everyone’s in a rather romantic mood this Christmas,” Ron observed behind them as they walked upstairs.

“Well, after a hard year, I don’t blame them,” Mark shrugged as they say at the kitchen table. “Romantic mood. Where’s Aries when you need her?”

“I’m surprised she didn’t invite you over”-

“She tried,” Mark interrupted. “But I managed to turn her down. She’s so… possessive.”

“Yeah, but fiancé, Mark?” Albus asked as Ginny served them both hot chocolate and went with Ron outside. “Aren’t you a little… young to be thinking of marriage?”

“I didn’t ask for it!” Mark said defensively. “Plus, don’t…” Mark went red and flustered as he spoke. “Don’t take what she says too literally. We’re not really engaged. Not technically. But… when my parents were alive and she was still here, before she was accepted in to an advanced program in the Salem Witches Institute, our parents openly talked about it. Aries was all for it because she adored me, still does by the looks of things, and I never said no so… she announced herself as my fiancé and she’s been introducing herself as such ever since.”

“So, you’re not really engaged or anything?”

“That’s something else altogether,” Mark waved aside. “She likes to say we are and by all rights, if things stay on the same track, we probably are. That’s just the kind of family we were. And Aries… well, you saw how she is.”

“Do you like her?” Albus asked as he took a small sip of his hot chocolate.

Mark did not even think or hesitate in his answer but he was evasive at first, “I could never hate her. And… when all is said and done, and you get to talking to her…”

“Ok, then here’s the real big question,” Albus asked, putting his head closer for respect of Mark’s personal life. “Did you ever like Laura?”

“As a friend?” Mark shrugged. “Yeah, of course. But… Al, I don’t understand this at all. For a time last year, I thought I did. Especially since I knew the twins hated her and I was feeling particularly rebellious that year. Remember how I fought them over you and Walter and Scorpy? I definitely let Alex think I liked her and I even asked her out. But one date was enough to tell me she is definitely not my type. Maybe I wanted to see how a date with her was. I personally thought Aries was never coming back. After hearing of all her Dueling Championships, and believe me she’s not lying when she says how many she won, I guessed she would stay and make a life for herself. I’m shocked, surprised, and a little touched that she dropped all of that to come back and study in Hogwarts.

“Ok, but…” Albus was wondering how to put this without infringing on Mark’s personal life too much. Indeed, they were already pretty deep into it already. He did not know if he was pushing an unseen boundary, especially considering their history. “Well, would you really… marry her?”

Mark did not seem upset or angry at the question but considered it, “I don’t know. We’re fourteen, Al. Seriously. And she’s fifteen next month. She- she seems to think we’re getting married. I don’t want to. She- she’ll get over me. I’m just letting her have fun first. She’ll meet a boy in Hogwarts one of these days and I’ll break it off then. I’m not marrying Aries.”

Albus grinned mischievously, “Or you lose and you end up a father.”

“Shut up! And you see I’m not complaining that Laura’s dating Scorpy now. They’re official, last I heard.”

“Really?” Albus asked, sidetracked a little at this piece of news. Scorpius had never been able to share with Albus how the date went or if Laura had ever made it official with him. Albus had been too busy and withdrawn and never responded to conversation starters. “Wow, I gotta catch up.”

“Yeah, because Scorpy’s been getting bugged by your disappearing act,” Mark said seriously. “So, get it together.”

“Disappearing act,” Harry’s voice said from behind them. “Will this have anything to do with Soto?” Albus jumped and Mark choked on his hot chocolate as Harry sat down with them. “I received very interesting updates from Phoenix this year. A prophecy, an assassination attempt, Soto wanting a job, and what’s this Mark is telling me about an amulet and secret messages being sent through Hogwarts security?”

Albus stared at Mark accusingly but Mark just shrugged like I told you we’d talk about this. Albus sighed and shook his head, “Yeah, it’s all true.” And Albus launched into story, feeling good to finally, after so long keeping it in, get it off his chest. He told Mark and Harry everything; Trelawney’s warning, how he told Phoenix about his worries, and how Soto had sent him a letter demanding help and dropped the amulet off with him, how Albus ignored him and went to Trelawney for more emphasis only to get a prophecy from her, the letter from Soto asking him to tell Seth that his father was being held, how Seth had no clue what that meant and how Albus was supposed to know, and how Soto had asked him to tell Redgrow and Phoenix that the final piece of the puzzle wanted to be placed and ended it with what happened recently and how Orgella nearly killed Phoenix, outright stating that Soto would finally enter Hogwarts. Albus left out only what Alexis told him, that he paid a visit to her place too.

Harry was taking it all in, quietly registering this as he obviously made a mental note to pass it on to Hermione. Finally, Mark looked up, “So, Soto wants to be a teacher… that makes no sense. Why in the bloody hell? And what was the prophecy again?”

“I still remember it,” Albus said and recited it as he recalled. “Light shall fall on a sea of darkness! Darkness flows into the purest of hearts! Darkness shall prove the flower’s bane! Darkness guards the sea of light. The snake binds the eagle’s talon, the eagle atop the roaring lion, the lion’s roar’s resounding cry, the badger no longer within the earth! A weapon as true as the bravest coward, a dwelling fit for a King crumbling down! Light shall fall on a sea of darkness…”

“The one a Prophecy is made to can always recall it perfectly,” Mark said knowingly. “But… a sea of darkness. Am I the only one noticing that Soto’s robes include a black sea with a twister falling over it?”

“Yeah… yeah,” Albus said almost absent-mindedly. “And the flower’s bane…”

“Lily,” Mark said quietly. “You, me and her are the ones who remember the Reservation. But Lily still doesn’t know as much as we do.”

“Indeed, but the reservation is being dealt with, mark my words,” Harry said with a small grin on his face. “They’re guarded by a large forest full of magical beasts and that’s probably the sea of light beyond darkness. And they’ve been trying to break through and breach Hogwarts again,” Harry said aptly, eyes narrowing as if he knew he was sharing too much and was making sure no one else knew. “But, Hagrid’s been mounting defenses and Teddy’s been fighting back on his own turf.”

“What do you mean?” Albus asked quickly as Ron arrived into the room and sat down, Hugo and Lily taking seats on either side. “Does this mean you’ll tell me what Teddy visited Hagrid about last month?”

Harry seemed momentarily surprised before regaining composure and said, “Well, I am supposed to keep the details quiet but a general picture shouldn’t hurt and you can definitely be trusted. I never was one for following the rules anyway Yes, Al. Teddy has been rallying the creatures in the forest to fight against the Reservation. Hagrid has been using his own clout in there. Now, even the Centaurs are taking charge and we all know how difficult it can be to get their allegiance. It is in fact because of Hagrid that Hogwarts is safer than ever, safer than it has ever been. In fact, I daresay that if Voldemort himself tried to do what he did in 98, he would fail.”

“What kind of creatures?” Mark asked.

“Something I prefer not to speak of,” Ron muttered as Hermione and Ginny served them all (minus Mark who refused) tea.

“Well, the forest is home to more than Acromantula which makes the job more difficult for both sides,” Harry said, ignoring Ron. “But Werewolves, Vampires, Trolls, and Centaurs inhabit the forest among other beings. You’re safe in Hogwarts and even if the defenses in the forest collapsed, Hogwarts still cannot be entered. Quite frankly, I am astonished that you all managed to get through last year. So astounded really, that I am convinced that someone or something… kept an eye on you, made sure you would get through. And that makes me feel uneasy. But so long as Hagrid is alive, as long as he draws breath, no one is getting through the forest.”

“Harry,” Ginny said warningly.

Harry went red, clearly having said too much. “Right,” and it was clear then that their conversation was over, though Harry gave them both a look to suggest this was not the last time they would speak during the holidays. And Albus believed he saw, out of the corner of his eye, Mark slipping the amulet to Harry.

“Where would we be without Hagrid?” Mark grinned.

“One thing for sure, Hogwarts would be a very different place,” Ron said happily. “I still say we ship a dragon over here and let Hagrid raise it in the forest.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, “We’ve been through this, Ron. One dragon and the forest will catch fire. No one will have any problems getting anywhere near Hogwarts. I suggest a Manticore or a Chimera provided measures are taken so they don’t wipe out the rest of the defenses first.”

“Oh, please, you all want a dragon story?” Ron grinned. “Once upon a time, Hagrid tried raising a dragon in his small, wooden hut.”

“No,” Hugo said disbelievingly.

“It bit me! Uncle Charlie never told you? Well, there we were, having just discovered the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone when…”

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