The Goblin’s Amulet
Chapter 17: The Missing Heir
The holidays only got better as Christmas itself approached. When it did, Christmas was very festive indeed. For once, Albus could feel completely at ease. Even when Mark brought up Soto in their room when they were alone, they managed to talk as if the subject was as trivial as lessons. And when Albus thought more deeply about it, why should it not have? Soto was cornered. He was on the run. The reservation was being held back by Hagrid and Teddy and a dangerous fortified forest. Even Incommodo, the major problem was gone. Indeed, if they could get the amulet back to the Goblins and stay on good terms, whatever Soto or Incommodo had in mind would definitely be set back a great deal.
And on Boxing Day, Uncle Ron had woken up with a slight hangover and Ginny had taken Aunt Hermione into the garden to chat. Hugo and Lily disappeared down in the basement for the day, Alex and Eric were upstairs in the room Albus shared with Mark and Rose was in the basement reading. It was then when Harry finally managed to corner Albus and Mark once again.
“Ok, before you all go to Hogwarts in… the next week or so… we still need to discuss the fate of the amulet,” Harry said honestly. “And despite what Ginny and Hermione think of this, I believe strongly that as Albus was the one to receive it, he is the one to decide its fate. Al?”
Albus was flustered. There was still so much he did not know about the whole situation and even Mark seemed a little on edge about the idea. “What about the rest of the Prophecy? The snake, eagle, lion and badger?”
“That too,” Harry said tentatively. It was clear he hoped but did not expect to avoid the subject. “What do you hope to know?”
“Well…” Albus stopped.
“We did find the Heir of Ravenclaw…” Mark started.
“What???” Harry yelped, jumping in his seat. He stared at Albus and Mark with great surprise. It was clear that despite all letters sent, despite having travelled beyond the forest and back, despite him hoping to avoid the subject completely, Harry did not expect them to discover a single piece of information. “You found Ravenclaw’s Heir? The Heir of Ravenclaw?”
Mark nodded vigorously. “It’s… well…” he looked at Albus.
Albus nodded, understanding that if anyone was to tell Harry, it was Albus himself. “Dad, remember the girl you met in second year? After the…” Albus threw an uncomfortable look at Mark. They both remembered the time Albus had saved his life.
Harry nodded, recalling the distant memory.
“Hi, Mr. Potter.”
“Want to introduce me, Al?” Harry asked calmly.
“Yeah, this is Alexis Ackerly,” Albus said lowly. “My friend in Ravenclaw. Alexis, this is my… erm… dad.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Potter,” Alexis said lowly.
“Alexis Ackerly… her father?”
“Charms Professor,” Albus admitted.
Harry had a small grin at first but it grew. He looked almost psychotic with glee. He clenched his fists, “The one thing we could not find, the mystery I’ve been after for… over two years. Ever since the Wallader assassination…” he recalled, never mind if Mark was there or not. “How did you discover this?”
“Orgella told us,” Mark said quickly. “She came in during the Goblin inspection and their magical readings picked something, six people in all.”
Harry looked on the point of asking who when Albus started counting them off, “Alexis was one definitely, Fora Vulneroman, Fauna Redgrow and Seth Lean,” he counted off.
“Lean, did you say?”
“He’s probably Soto’s son,” Albus nodded.
“He’s definitely Soto’s son,” Mark corrected. “And probably the Jinx, I might add.”
“So, we have Ravenclaw’s Heir as one of the six,” Harry counted. Mark looked very uncomfortable but Harry just shared a nod with him before pushing on, “Al had the amulet so it’s no wonder they were suspicious. The other three… three heirs? Are these kids also Heirs?”
“Can’t be, Slytherin’s Heir is dead,” Albus said pointedly. “They might’ve had special objects with them or some”-
“Oh, that’s a definite,” Harry agreed. “On both counts. Slytherin’s Heir is very, very dead. I can attest to that. And the sensors pick objects up, not blood. Everyone had something powerful with them that day, I can assure you.”
“That makes no sense!” Mark said vehemently. “I had nothing but quills on me! I swear! And the whole basis is wrong anyway. Slytherin’s Heir is completely dead so the idea of Heirs is outdated. Maybe before this would’ve worked. Trelawney was always an old fraud though.”
“It is outdated,” Harry agreed. “In fact, this Prophecy had a record in the Hall of Prophecy hundreds of years ago. Seers have been making this one for centuries, affirming its existence. This was not even the first time Trelawney herself uttered the Prophecy and Al is not the only one who heard it.”
Albus was giving maximum attention now, committing everything to memory. “When did she speak it last? And to who?”
Harry had a small grin on his face, “Professor Ackerly. Three years ago. You were first year back then and still fighting with Mark.”
It felt as if an invisible hand clenched Albus’ memory and forced him to remember a conversation he had otherwise forgotten, pushed into the dark recesses of his mind. But it was there, resurfacing once again.
“If Trelawney finally made the prediction, you summon Harry Potter up here right away.”
“Sir, what does this mean?” Ackerly asked.
“Something that may actually concern you a great deal,” Galadral sighed.
“And we had no idea back then that the person she made it to was one of the people we were looking for,” Harry recalled. “We still have Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and the Mystery of Slytherin itself. To think that so many significant things happened on the day you save Mark’s life. I met Miss Ackerly, you faced off with Soto, and you managed to save Mark’s life. And take it from me, saving someone’s life in spite of hard feelings is everything. Anyways, enough about Prophecies. The amulet, Al. Two choices. You keep it with me, I hand it to the Goblins and Soto and Incommodo may face a united front against them. Otherwise, I give it to you as may have been intended, we discover why this has the Wallader crest on it, and keep it very well hidden. Think about it and let me know before you leave.”
“Breaking news,” Aunt Hermione said suddenly from the doorway. “The Minister, under favor for the Goblins, is reshuffling the Heads of Departments.”
Harry raised a single eyebrow, as if he half expected this. “Ah, so I’ve been given the boot again.”
“Soto’s doing?” Ginny asked.
“Not likely,” Hermione shrugged. “He wants Harry on top for one reason or another.”
“Dad- dad’s off again?” Albus exclaimed.
“Never mind that, Al,” Harry waved aside. “A load of stress off my plate. Uncle Ron is obviously top dog again.”
And Ron grinned widely. “Yes, my plan worked and Harry has been ousted.”
“In all honesty, he needs the promotion more than I would,” Harry shrugged. “I hardly wanted it back when they gave it to me. Whatever Soto wants, it involves me on top and I’m not about to let him have it.”
“Otto, though,” Ron said pointedly. “He was important to us.”
“And always will be,” Hermione said importantly, fixing Harry with a significant look. “The forest, Harry.”
“Of course,” Harry smiled. “And I can make good dealings with the Goblins this way. Offer things from an unofficial standpoint.”
“Any chance they’ll make do with Harry’s resignation?” Ron asked.
“Look at it logically,” Hermione shrugged. “It’ll all depend on where their interests lie. Think about it. If Phoenix offers them allegiance in gaining what they’ve wanted for centuries… freedoms, wands, control over Ministerial treasury… they might be willing to settle down.”
“Won’t be too smart to do so now though,” Harry shrugged.
“Not really,” Hermione agreed. “But if they wage war, Phoenix can use these ideas as negotiating chips and that’s what I’m asking him to do.”
Even after the talk, the holidays managed to stay normal. Or at least, as normal as emotions would allow. In fact, Albus and Mark walked upstairs to their room in hopes of catching an early sleep when they discovered, sleeping closely together on Albus’ bed, so innocently was Hugo and Lily. Albus was forced to appreciate fully just how close his sister was with his young cousin.
“Guess we’re kipping downstairs tonight,” Mark shrugged.
Mark had a small grin but he shook his head and said, “They’re not dating if that’s what you’re wondering.”
“How do you know?” Albus asked, eyes still on them.
“Lily told me,” Mark said simply. “And I trust her. Besides, you don’t understand cousins as I do. If you think they’re dating or even have these kinds of feelings for one another, I’m surprised you don’t say anything about me and any of the twins. Especially after all the sarcastic jokes you like making about me. This should be gold.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Albus muttered as they left the room. “Hugo’s like that though. He loves everyone.”
“According to Eric, he trusts everyone,” Mark said lowly. “Which is why I feel better knowing you’ve got your eye on her too.”
“I’m not too worried anymore,” Albus said honestly, not sure if this made him appear naïve to Mark. “What with Soto, Incommodo and the Reservation on the run. No one can try anything. Soto hasn’t even sent me anything in ages.” Now Albus thought about it, it had been two months since Soto made any sort of contact with Albus.
“I see what you mean,” Mark shrugged. “He can’t try anything for a while anyway. Still, someone tried Jinxing you. And… that’s why I actually prefer you take the Amulet. At least till the end of the year. So… if anything does happen, we’ll have a bargaining chip.”
Albus could see Mark’s point too. He nodded, “Yes. I agree.”
“That’s a first,” Mark shrugged.
Funny, Albus thought musingly. Albus and Mark had talked plenty of times, even when they fought but it was rare when they stood in absolute agreement with one another. It was rare when they disagreed on nothing. But now, after the Diagon incident, being found on the same side, both with the same person to protect made them think rationally for the first time ever. If Albus was ever in his first year told that he would one day be working hand in hand with Mark Wallader to protect the same person, he would have laughed it off. Back then, he hated Mark. And sometimes in the present, he still hated Mark. But the present day’s hate was different. More of a sibling rivalry than an outright hate war.
Albus did not realize they were standing at the stairs to the basement. “Al,” Mark snapped him out of his thoughts. “Keep the amulet, and whatever happens to anyone, we face it together. Ok? This year, no matter what, we’re allies first and foremost.”
Albus nodded again. That was all he could do. Something had occurred to him. Something scary. Albus had once pushed Mark, who he hated back then out of the way of a Killing Curse. Albus himself had saved Mark’s life in spite of hard feelings. And Harry spoke of life debts. Putting the two together rang an ominous bell indeed.
Mark stood at the top of the stairs uncertainly, “So, should we…”
Then, it happened. Albus did not know how or what had possessed him, but he reached out and embraced Mark tightly, catching him by surprise. “Al?” Albus was shaking slightly, as if the old pain from the Jinx had come back. He took one horrified look at Mark and Mark stepped back, clearly getting a little frightened. “What is it?”
“Yo-you have to promise me,” Albus said shakily as he fixed Mark’s eyes with his own. He had never felt so worried before. “That- that whatever happens, whatever bargaining chip you think of using, you will never give your life. Ever!”
Mark stared incredulously, as if he was seeing Albus for the first time. Even Mark seemed close to crying now. He actually had to take a breath and say, “You’re getting to me, Al, stop.” And after a whole minute of staring, trying to make sense of why Albus acted this way all of a sudden, Mark nodded, “Ok. Yeah, only I have a family legacy to continue. I have no intention dying yet.”
Albus nodded heavily, regaining himself. “Yeah, so…”
“I won’t die, Al, don’t worry,” Mark said quietly, and through his half worry, he grinned. Though Mark tried to sound reassuring, there was a tinge of uncertainty in the grin. Like he was not entirely sure of himself either. They walked downstairs, Albus prepared to sleep again just to get off the subject. Then, Mark grinned more widely, “If you had to pick between me or Lily… who”-
“Sorry but, Lily,” Albus said without thinking, grinning himself.
Mark actually looked relieved as they settled into the bedroom the twins usually shared with Hugo. Now, the twins were upstairs in James’ room and James was probably on the couch. “Good, at least you still have your priorities straight.” He sighed, “Goodnight, Al.”
“And don’t worry, nothing will happen to me or Lily,” Mark said seriously. “I promise you.”
And Albus nodded in the darkness, “I hope you’re right.”
In a dimly lit room, Soto stood at the cavern entrance, overlooking the village below. Hogwarts stood in the far distance. Two of his followers, the red-haired Stella and the blonde Rufeus walked in tentatively, “News from the Goblin search team.”
Soto turned and walked inside, “And…”
“Nothing,” Stella said simply.
Soto was shocked, for the first time surprised and disturbed. Nothing. “Nothing?”
“They searched the entire castle twice, searched each and every bag, every nook and cranny, even entered the Fabled Chamber of Secrets. They found nothing,” Rufeus said. “It’s not there.”
“It is there,” Soto insisted. “I had Ogella pass them the information that the amulet is there. How- How did it get out?” Stella and Rufeus stayed silent. Neither dared answer now. Not when Soto’s mood was being tested. “Potter was supposed to be captured. Be used as leverage on Harry Potter. Somehow, standing alone he trumps me at every turn. There is no way possible, not if he’s alone, not when Goblins are everywhere. He can’t dodge them. He- he…” he looked back at Hogwarts, the faces of Mark and Lily entering his mind. “Unless…”