The Goblin’s Amulet
Chapter 19: The Eagle’s Thorn
Since the Christmas holidays, time had passed. Despite whatever may have bothered Albus, Alexis, Mark or anyone else, time marched on relentlessly. March arrived and nothing had changed except that Scorpius and Laura had become more official. Laura had even started talking to Mark more cordially, very comfortably telling him and even Albus how her dates were going. And apparently, Scorpius knew how to treat her. He bought her bags upon bags of sweets she often shared with Mark and even Aries, (who reluctantly took them suspiciously, still clearly not trusting Laura.) He even took Albus’ advice and showed her flying tricks and trained her in flying so she might join the Gryffindor team one day.
Aries took it in that step too. She announced that she and Mark were officially going steady. Mark was red-faced as she told Albus this of couse, making Albus think that whatever plan Mark had in mind to rid himself of Aries was not working very well at all. In fact, Albus joked, if he remained on this track, Mark would be a father within the year.
“Shut it, Al!”
Apart from romance, Albus even dared to ignore Soto’s latest letter and nothing had changed except that Albus wrote to Harry and alerted him to that latest communication. Albus lost his old fear of Soto. He managed to convince himself that his family was in fact safe because in the end of the day, Soto could not do anything. His best chance were the Goblins and they failed too. He assumed the amulet was no longer with Albus and he was wrong. The amulet was with Albus, just not in his immediate presence. It was safely hidden.
The rains frequented the months of January and February disrupted Care of Magical Creatures a lot but even then, Hagrid was not in his hut. Albus had a feeling that even had the weather been sunny, class would still have been cancelled. Hagrid was out of the hut most of the time, even failing to show up for meal times occasionally. Albus wrote to his dad about that too but Harry was sraying suspiciously quiet on that front, probably feeling he had revealed too much the previous Christmas.
However, after one of the rare lessons Hagrid gave, sometime in March, Albus hung back with him as they reviewed on Nifflers. Alexis, (who took the class with him) was still rather quiet, though she did give him quick greetings and shy smiles when they parted. Albus’ only friend in that class was Hagrid and Scorpius.
“Where are you these days?” Albus asked quietly as he received some gold from his Niffler.
“Well,” Hagrid grunted quietly. “Been busy, yeh know. Helping yer father. Makin’ sure the Res’rvation don’t make headway into the school. Thanks teh yeh, we got a good idea what their plans are.”
Albus stared at the forest in wonder. Was Teddy still in there? Was he still fighting? “Don’t let it worry yeh, Al. They haven’t been attacking in weeks now. They’ve been holed in their land again and with Otto’s help…”
“My dad’s in there?” Riley said suddenly from behind Albus. He emptied a fistful of galleons in front of Hagrid and leaned back.
Hagrid cleared his throat like he too revealed too much and dismissed the class. Albus and Riley both stayed behind, Albus nodding a quick, sad goodbye to Alexis, trying to say it through his eyes that he hated not talking to her. Some of him wanted to run after her and try to talk but he stayed put. She seemed to have gotten the message but only shrugged, threw a last sad smile and walked away.
“What’s dad doing in there?”
Albus was surprised Riley, the usual tired student even bothered to stay and ask Hagrid directly. Riley was a true introvert and never spoke unless spoken to or needed to. Albus wondered whether Hagrid would even tell Riley what Albus already knew. Would Riley understand the concept of forest reservation?
“Yer father is in the forest after the Heads’ been shuffled at the Ministry,” Hagrid said simply. “He’s heading the Vampires, makin’ sure they got prior’ties straight and organizing them.”
Riley stood beside Albus, looking into it interestedly. “Are they joining us?” he asked quietly.
“Already have,” Hagrid waved aside. “Now no more questions. Talked too much, I have. Now, off teh yer other lessons. Got somewhere ter be?”
Albus just remembered. Divination. Riley moaned, “So bothersome walking all that way. You don’t have your broom, do you?”
Albus shook his head, “Still haven’t gotten it back. C’mon. Let’s go.”
Albus and Riley walked in semi-silence, only breaking it for the occasional question. Riley asked him if he was friends with Mark now and Albus replied in the affirmative, feeling a little guilty because Riley had been expelled once because of Mark. Riley did not seem to care too much though. He asked Albus quick questions on Charms and thanks to the tutoring Albus had from Alexis, (he remembered her with another pang to his stomach) he was able to answer him.
Divination passed by without much event, except Trelawney predicting Scorpius’ untimely death after murdering someone. Scorpius learned not to show his irritation until after the lesson when he burst out, well within earshot of Mark, Laura, Aries and the twins, “I think she wants me to kill someone. Cause I’m seriously about to kill her. She’s egging her own prediction on.”
“How’d you die afterwards though?” Eric asked curiously.
“Simple, a Malfoy killing a Hogwarts Professor definitely gets the death penalty,” Scorpius quirked to Laura’s laughter. “Maybe I’ll be fed to the giant squid or something.”
“Well, gosh darn it, Eric, the one idea that never occurred to us in first year,” Alex joked with a mischievous smirk on his face.
“Oh, back when we hated you,” Eric waved off. “We had a list of them. 101 Ways to Kill Scorpius Malfoy. We only ever tried three of them. But we like your way much better.”
Scorpius and Albus exchanged quizzical looks. “I’m… flattered. Which three?”
“Sending Mark on you,” Eric counted down off his fingers. “Letting Riley bite you, we came pretty close there… and I think one had something to do with the forest… ah, yes, get you bitten by a Werewolf.”
“And… you’re telling me this, why?” Scorpius asked innocently. Laura was notably zipping her mouth shut, visibly taking a lot of amusement in what they had plotted.
“Dunno,” Alex shrugged. “Now you mention it, this was probably the single stupidest act we’ve ever done.”
“Yeah, bull, you just don’t wanna admit you like me,” Scorpius grinned and Laura burst out laughing.
“Like you, why would we like you?” Eric insisted. “We tried to kill you, like you?”
“Yeah, you just can’t admit that”-
Albus’ eyes fell on someone else. As they passed the Charms corridor, he caught Alexis’ eye. She looked away in a split second but be ran up to her, deciding things had been stalled for too long. “Oi, Alexis.”
“Not now, Al. Have Lunch.”
“Great, we’re both free for once,” Albus said happily.
He caught her eyes rolling and tried not to let that hurt him but she said, “Al, really, not now. I have lunch and a lot of work.”
And she walked on, trying to ignore him. Albus ran faster and blocked her way, making her go red, (blushing or angry?) “Why didn’t you tell me?” he burst out. “Who you were?” Alexis looked down, not meeting his eyes this time.
“You’re gonna believe what a… well… a woman like that said?”
“Yes,” Albus said honestly. “All our talks. All our stories. And you never told me a thing. Why? Why do you hate me now?”
For the first time, it looked like Albus finally brought out the old Alexis. She had the same smile, the same laugh she reserved for him when he said something foolish and her signature pat on his shoulder before she grew serious again, “Al, I could never hate you.” She took a deep breath, as if carefully choosing her next words, “I told you before. We get through this year, get over whatever is bothering us, go it alone, and at the end, we’ll talk.”
Albus noted Mark a way behind, leaning against the wall, waiting for him. Was he hearing them? Albus did not care. “I would’ve liked to know your heritage. It would- prove- explain your genius, even how”-
“Don’t flatter me, Al,” Alexis interrupted, folding her arms.
“Then talk to me!” Albus retorted mistakenly. He did not mean to sound so angry but that was how it came out.
And as expected, Alexis was very visibly angry at him, “Al, who’re you to say that? You’ve been avoiding everyone the entire year! It’s only after the holidays you talk to everyone and it’s anyone but me. What changed your mind? You ask me why I hate you? I could never hate you but you irritate me a great deal this year. You trusted me before and now… no one sees you. You’re too busy with your own affairs. Deal with them, let me deal with mine and we’ll talk.””
“I hate not talking to you,” Albus admitted. “I want to be your friend again. I hate it this way!”
Alexis’ small smile was apparent this time. “Look, we’re always friends, ok?” she said simply, lightening the weight on his heart even if only a little. “Even if we’re not talking, we’re still friends. Just… getting through our own individual problems and settling them. Like I said, I’ll see you at the end of the year. And I promise you, we will talk. Now, can you please move? Only I want to eat…”
Albus moved aside her for. She gave him a final smile and walked on past him. Albus watched her go as Scorpius came up from his conversation with Alex and Eric. He stopped when beside him and watched her go with him. “What’s that about?”
“Nothing,” Albus grumbled, feeling slightly guilty over Alexis and curious over Mark.
Scorpius changed tact then and went down another road, “What about Alexis? Talk to her?” Scorpius was one of the few people Albus shared his girl problems with so he knew they had a communication problem. Albus shook his head and Scorpius sighed, “Talk to her, Al. I’m sure she’ll respond.”
“It’s not that simple,” Albus groaned. “I don’t wanna talk, right now, ok? Just wanna eat.”
Scorpius shrugged a ‘fine’, used to getting the cold shoulder that year (making Albus feel guiltier) and ate in silence. And for the first time, Albus just skipped Transfiguration and walked to the dormitory. It had been a while since he got even close to teary-eyed but this was too much. Albus never, ever thought there would come a time when Alexis simply got tired of him. And though she insisted they would talk at the end of the year, he knew what it meant. It meant that their relationship, though short-lived was over and when they did talk, it would involve an agreement to stay friends and nothing more. And it hurt him.
Albus finally had to admit to himself. His feelings for Alexis were exactly as Scorpius always claimed. He never wanted anything else but to be with her and her giving him the cold shoulder only made things worst. Albus was not so sure what he could do to get Alexis to talk to him again and brings things the way they were and with Soto out of the picture she was the only problem he had left. Or… so he had thought.
As they got started on eating, Hagrid, for the first time in living memory rose up at the staff table. Phoenix set out a loud bang from his wand that silenced everyone and said loudly, “If we may command attention for five minutes. I believe Professor Hagrid has a few words to say…”
“If yeh all will settle down,” Hagrid said through his gruff voice. Albus noticed he looked wounded on his face. His graying beard had been unevenly cut as if it was badly trimmed. Hagrid seemed to think nothing of it despite the audience of students focusing on that instead of the man himself. Hagrid went on, “The fores’… I cannot emphasize enough that it is no longer a place of simple restriction. There’s summat goin’ on there related to Ministerial troubles and the beasts have gone wild.”
The student at first did not seem to get why Hagrid took the time to repeat what Phoenix more or less stated at the beginning of each year. Then, Hagrid cleared his throat and went on, “Tha’ is why, after delib’rating with Phoenix on this here issue, I pass a new rule in this school.” And the student body held its breath as Hagrid changed expression. He was not in his element and whatever was happening in the forest was out of his league. “Whoever is caught breaking this rule will face immediate expulsion.”
Hagrid sat back down and Phoenix nodded his agreement with this, fixing the students with an eye to assure them that he would do the expelling too if anyone was caught breaking the rules. Albus could only guess why such a dramatic threat was made but he had to sympathize with Scorpius too. He was in the dark concerning problems. Scorpius just gaped open-mouthed, Walter shrugged as if he too did not know, Riley was silent, Nate on the other hand just grinned, “Perfect. Reverse Psychology dictates we all do a mass exodus into the forest now.”
Gabriel laughed aloud and the din started once again, conversations switching to Hagrid’s threat. Gabriel put a hand on Nate’s shoulder as he added to the humor, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say Hagrid wanted us in there.”
Riley yawned, “He seemed pretty serious though. I wouldn’t test him.”
No more was said of the matter among them. Albus knew that Riley at least, maybe even Nate knew where their dad was and what he was doing. Still, the fact Hagrid had to make such a dramatic threat was worrisome.
At the Ministry…
“You are mad!” Harry yelled, across the room. His brother-in-law, Ron stood beside him. “We’ve worked so hard to rebuild this Wizarding world only to put one of the world’s most dangerous men to date as the Head of the Law Enforcement. A man with Soto’s way of thinking. What is your game?”
“It’s time for a change in management of the Ministry,” Minister Cauldwell said simply. “Potter, please understand that we took his history into account. He is still the best man for the job right now.”
“No,” Harry refused. “The best man for the job was Ernie Macmillan. Now, you replace him with a- a”-
“The Head of the Law Enforcement has command over the Head of Aurors,” Ron said pointedly. “And I want you to know, Minister, I will not, under any circumstances answer to him. That’s a promise.”
“Your old hatreds get the better of you,” Minister Cauldwell said back. “You owe the man a chance. He is the only one who may be able to stop Soto, especially based on their similar way of thinking.”
“I’ve told you what I think,” Harry said simply. “Of your foolish plan, your foolish ideas, and the self-destructive attitude of the Ministry. It’s a shame to see that after more than twenty years, the Ministry has reverted back to its old policies.”
Cauldwell did not bare any offense in his eyes. He just shrugged and returned to his paperwork, “Thank you for your opinion, Mr. Potter. I will keep it in mind, especially as I”-
The door opened up behind them, just as Harry and Ron turned to leave, and none other than Lucius Malfoy walked in. He stood, high and mighty, as cold as always. His grey eyes followed Harry and Ron out the door before it shut. When outside, Harry sat against the wall, covering his eyes as his mind began to be troubled once again. Ron stood up, leaning against the wall beside him. “Don’t worry, Harry. I’m the last person who’d listen to him.”