Chapter 18 Traces of Dark Magic

The Goblin’s Amulet

Chapter 18: Traces of Dark Magic

Albus did not really think too much about Harry’s offer. He already knew what he wanted but he did not dare tell Harry. What Albus had in mind might have been considered a betrayal. If it ever came down to Albus against Soto, Albus could bet Soto would have leverage of some kind. Albus needed a trump. He needed something he could offer to keep particular people safe. So, Albus had to take the amulet back. But, he also needed a way to keep it hidden because Albus was not too keen about giving it away easily.

Albus was not sure how Harry would take this though and he was prepared to nick it if necessary. But he asked Harry in front of Mark and thankfully, Harry agreed and handed it back, “Just a word of caution, Al.” Albus looked up. “Listen carefully Al, and commit this to memory or else write it down. When you return to Hogwarts, go straight to the seventh floor. Along the corridor is a tapestry of a Wizard being clubbed by trolls. Across from the tapestry is a blank wall. Walk back and forth three times, concentrating really hard on what you need which is in your case a place to hide an item. A door should appear. Walk in, find your perfect hiding spot and put the amulet there. No one need know about it and using this failsafe, no one will find it.”

The return to Hogwarts was done by Floo once again for Albus and Mark. Each appeared in a separate office and they had to agree beforehand to meet on the seventh floor. Albus fell on to the cold hard floor of Era’s office. She looked up from her desk, gave him a quick disapproving look and cleaned the soot up before waving him off.

Albus’ first visit to the Room of Requirement was not in happy circumstances. He did as Harry instructed and walked past the wall three times, thinking very intently of what he wanted to hide, which lay in his pocket. After his third time, Mark let a small gasp out and pointed. A door had appeared. The two gave one nod, agreeing that this was it and opened the door.

Albus expected something like a cupboard or a pile of trash he could hide the amulet under. What he did not expect was what he saw. It was a large, open room with a horrible sight of soot and ash. The place was boiling hot, like it had recently been thrown into an inferno that was only just doused. As they stepped in, Albus felt a sudden rush of foreboding, like something horrible had happened here. Mark on the other hand picked up a pile of ash and blew it off, forming a black cloud. He wrinkled his nose as if he smelt something, “Dark Magic.”

“How can you tell?”

“It leaves traces… always,” Mark said lowly, picking the remains of a charred cabinet up. “Only one spell, one evil Curse has the power to do damage on this scale, especially in Hogwarts. In fact, unless about ten thousand Wizards got together and fired Incendio, it was most definitely the Curse I am thinking of.”

“What”-

“How do we work this destroyed room?” Mark asked.

“I dunno, we need a place to hide something”- He stopped. A cabinet had materialized out of thin air.

Mark’s lips curled into a smile. “Al, think of another cabinet…”

Albus did and miraculously, another one appeared. Albus smirked and hurried over to the cabinet to hide the amulet. Mark seemed to be trying to think something into existence as well, but Albus was the one who needed the room. Not Mark. So Albus was the one who needed to think of it.

“Done.”

“This isn’t a hundred percent secure,” Mark said, noticing something. “I’m with you, so I can easily find this room. Think of the same need, a need to hide something, and the same room will appear. Anyone thinking of a place to hide something will stumble across this room.”

“Not necessarily…”

“Al, this place was destroyed, which means someone walked in and destroyed it and we walked in on the same room,” Mark said logically. “Anyone else can. We need a better hiding place. A puzzle. Think up five more cabinets,” Mark ordered and Albus obliged, acting as Mark issued instructions. “Give each of the seven a lock that can’t be forced open and put the same amulet in each one. A copy, basically. Done?”

Albus looked at what he’d done. Mark nodded and took out his wand and waved it at each of the cabinets, “Obscuro.”

They disappeared one by one and Albus watched as Mark placed additional Charms on them. Then, on the correct cabinet, he used his wand and pointed it at Albus’ eyes. Slowly, the cabinet appeared to him and Albus knew it was to him only. Albus had to admire this. With Mark on his side for once, he had the best solutions for everything. He truly knew how to hide something and how to get exactly what he wanted. The cabinets, to the naked eye were not there but Albus knew where the correct one was.

But something was puzzling, almost unsettling. Mark was fourth year. How did he know such powerful Charms and Curses? How was he so adept at recognizing Dark Magic despite little experience with it? Just how many Curses, Charms, Jinxes and Hexes did Mark know? And did the twins know them too? As they walked out and downstairs, the evening settling in and the clatter downstairs signaling everyone else had just finished dinner, Albus was silent.

“Did I freak you out?” Mark smirked.

Before Albus could respond, an excitedly high squeal interrupted them, “Maaaa-aaaaaarrrrk!”

“Ugh!”

Aries had wrapped her arms over his shoulders, “Why weren’t you at dinner? I’ve been looking everywhere for you. I want to show you my Christmas present. Father wrapped it up for you and Mother…”

Aries was chattering on as she led Mark away. And Albus considered going down when he realized he was right on the route Alexis sometimes took when going to or from Ravenclaw tower. The very girl walked up to the tower. Neither spared a glance at the other, determinedly keeping their eyes fixed on one point. But the tension was apparent. Her shoulders tensed up and Albus’ jaw clenched, he felt like his heart contracted. He hated not talking to her.

Without a smart girl like Alexis by his side though, Albus’ social life went back to default. The very next day, after classes Albus ended up with none other than Rose Weasley. It had been a long time since he sat at the same table with Scorpius and Rose. What with spending most of his days with Mark, Scorpius and Alexis, he had not talked to Rose like this since second year. But there they were, sitting at a table in the library, Hugo and Lily not too far off looking up a herbal ingredient for Potions.

Rose was taking quick notes from a book before she finally looked up and voiced Albus’ thoughts, “Wow, it has been a while.”

“Yeah, I miss you doing our homework for us,” Scorpius smirked.

“Oh, be quiet.”

Albus knew what they were saying though. It had been a long time since they had sat down together like this. But Albus knew, like he and Alexis seemed to have done, (he thought with a pang as he remembered Alexis Ackerly. He was still hurting inside from not talking to her) each had simply grown apart. Rose started dating Daniel in third year and Scorpius… was Scorpius.

“Well, since you started dating Danny,” Scorpius shrugged.

“If you’d given him a chance, he’s not that bad a guy,” Rose insisted.

“He hates my guts,” Albus and Scorpius said in unison before laughing.

“Now, if he hated your guts, why did he organize a Gryffindor drive to send sweets to your bed until you woke up?” Rose asked testily and to Albus’ shock.

“Daniel did that?”

“For each day you were asleep, he ordered everyone to cough up a Galleon,” Rose said simply. “He sent James and Nigel to Hogsmeade somehow and they came back with an armload of sweets. The teachers would’ve detained them but nothing can be pinned on them. Your brother and Daniel did it all for you.”

Albus and Scorpius exchanged glances before Scorpous made a recovery, “Well, ok, even so. He’s one of the blokes who just avoids Slytherins on principle.”

“So were you,” Albus muttered.

“Once we’re a little older and out of Hogwarts, that won’t be a factor, will it?” Rose suggested testily. “And he’s already showing some maturity in fifth year. He brought the Jinxed brooms personally to Redgrow for her to look at them.”

“Which we still don’t know how they got that way,” Scorpius remembered.

“Phoenix suspects a boy called Seth Lean, I hear,” Rose noted seriously. “Ever met him?”

“He’s Soto’s son,” Albus shrugged, Scorpius nodding beside him. Albus had caught Scorpius up on the details since he had stopped communicating with Soto. As far as Albus was concerned, the more people who knew about Soto’s methods, the better. “Maybe he tried to get Albus’ broom Jinxed to get him out of the way.”

“Can’t be,” Rose shook her head. “No student can do that to a broom. Especially one like a Lightning Bolt. They have too many defenses around them. Even a prodigy wouldn’t manage. No, this is very powerful Dark Magic and”-

Hugo and Lily walked up tentatively to the table and set a book in front of Rose, “Can the Disarming Charm be used on many people at once?” Hugo asked frankly.

Rose sighed, rolled her eyes and pushed the book away, “No, not unless you’re proficient with it.”

“I’m proficient with it,” Lily claimed.

“Yeah, and Albert bet me in the galleons that I can’t do it,” Hugo said, going red. “I wanna prove him wrong.”

Rose started detailing to Hugo what he had to do to disarm multiple targets as Scorpius turned to Albus, “Reckon it might be Seth? Or maybe… Soto’s controlling him. People can do unnatural things under the Imperius Curse.”

“Or someone else,” Albus shrugged.

“Well, I asked grandfather and he says he’s never heard of any bloke called Vulneroman,” Scorpius said matter-of-factly. “And someone with a scar and an eyepatch would be known, wouldn’t he?”

That piece of information was surprising. He thought about it interestedly, vaguely (and with another pang) wondering how Alexis would perceive this. Strange. The whole year he tried to keep it from her and now he was sharing his problems with everyone else. “So, who’re the suspects?” Hugo asked Albus bluntly as if he had been part of the conversation the entire time.

Albus looked up with a snap, surprised Rose had finished explaining. Lily was standing beside Rose still, taking quick notes on her explanation, “Hey, Rose, Scorpius suggested it might be Soto using the Imperius Curse on Seth.”

“That’s…” Rose considered it. “An idea. But such a powerful spell would leave traces. The curse would’ve been caught by now. Especially after Phoenix interrogated him.”

“Just ‘cause Seth is Soto’s son doesn’t mean he did it,” Hugo shrugged.

Scorpius looked at him, puzzled, “Do you know Seth?”

Hugo went red. He was rarely talked to directly by Scorpius but he responded, “No, but Albert does. And Fora Vulneroman helps him with homework sometimes.”

“Another Vulneroman,” Scorpius muttered interestedly. “What year is she in?”

“Second year,” Hugo shrugged. “Like me and Lils. Why?”

“We saw her getting sorted,” Albus recalled. “Seth is more likely.”

Lily walked up and made shuffling noises with her feet, like she wanted to go but Hugo was not with her. “But Soto is hiding,” Hugo said, so involved with the conversation now, he did not look like he wanted to go anywhere. “He can’t”-

“Hugo, honestly,” Rose shook her head. “If Soto could be taken that easily, it’s a wonder we haven’t imprisoned him before.”

“But”-

“Your naivety,” Rose said, eyes shooting like daggers. “Is going to get you killed one of these days.”

Rose’s comment, though somewhat true and based purely on Hugo’s interests drew negative reactions from two at once. Hugo went red and said “Hey,” while Lily went red with anger but eyes wide in shock and worry, as if the very idea scared her to death. “Take that back, Rose!”

Her voice was loud enough to get a shrill warning from Madam Wolf, “Or I will suspend you from the library, Miss Potter!”

“But Rose said Hugo was gonna die!” Lily complained.

Albus thought it was ridiculous of Lily to tell Wolf what Rose did but Wolf turned on Rose next, “I never thought a library would need this rule but no talking about death in any way, shape or form.”

Rose widened her eyes in surprise and looked on the point of apologizing but before she could, Hugo just folded his arms defiantly and said, “I am not naïve. Mum says I have good intuition. So there.”

Rose gave in under pressure and put her notebook down, “Fine,” she said quietly. “Mum is right. I am wrong. Just… go practice the Disarming Charm like I taught you…”

Hugo took Lily by the hand and took her off to Gryffindor tower. The conversation, it seemed had ended there and they had to retire to their Common rooms anyway. Once they all said goodnight to each other and Albus lay in bed, Albus got to thinking. Now Albus was able to talk freely with anyone he liked about Soto, he felt so much better. Even Hugo was relatable. He could not help but feel a bit disturbed by Rose’s comment but he knew Hugo was also right in his own way. He did have good intuition. That was why he trusted Scorpius, why he managed to beat Albus in a game of Quidditch every time whether it was a board game or a real game, why he stayed away from Malcolm and was not afraid to duel him to protect Lily.

A rustle sounded by his bed but Albus ignored it. His mind returned to Alexis. Mark was right. He had to apologize to her. Or at least get things back to normal. He missed her so much. He never imagined a life without Alexis and did not want to begin one. Her face entered his mind again. The same face that gave him strength to fend off the Dementors the previous summer. Alexis still had no idea that she was responsible for his strength that summer.

He felt a claw on his bed and he jumped slightly. Nothing there but he knew what had stood on him. There, in a black envelope was a note. The same envelope, the usual note that had scared Albus into hiding the entire year. Soto, it seemed had returned.

Dear Mr. Potter,

I am absolutely furious with you. I asked, at the very beginning of the year, giving you an entire month to think about things before agreeing to work with me. In spite of this, you maintained silence. I have reason to believe you have also revealed our correspondence which puts us both in a very dangerous position and to top matters, the Amulet itself is no longer with you. This of course means that the Goblins will find it, they will attack the second you enter your household for the summer holidays, and your entire family will be slaughtered and start a Goblin war.

Of course, if this comes to pass, there is nothing I can do about it now you have chosen your path. If you wish to undo your mistake, you will get that amulet back, I do not care how and you will inform me when you do. If you are willing to risk matters going into the unknown, by all means do. Rest assured I stand to gain from either choice you make.

Regards,

-Soto Lean
Head of the Purifiers
Honorary Member of the Pure-blood Reservation

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