The Goblin’s Amulet
Chapter 20: The Illegal Visit
Time marched on and soon enough, rain started pattering the Hogwarts turrets more than ever especially as they entered into the month of April. But it was that month when Albus finally got news of his broom and the future of the Quidditch matches. Professor Era announced during lunch one day that Quidditch matches were to be held again in May but that was what led to bad news. Cantharis decided that both Slytherin and Ravenclaw had lost since none caught the snitch and the final would be between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff with popular opinion favoring Gryffindor despite the fact that Hufflepuff had won the cup the previous year.
The brooms were still gone and Era continued telling Albus that both brooms were still being inspected and he would not get his back until they were sure danger had passed. She even got impatient when Albus questioned how it took so long to inspect two brooms and kicked him out of her office. Some time in the middle of May, right before students were called to study for exams, they were given a Hogsmeade weekend to let steam out before exams were to be studied for. Students were not due to leave until noon so some opted to wait in the Great Hall till breakfast was over.
Albus passed the time by playing chess with Riley. He could feel Riley trouncing him badly and he wished he had a reason to escape the game when Alex appeared in beside them. He grinned at Albus’ and said, “Well, Al’s a loser. Why not opt for a better challenge?”
Riley moved his tired eyes up at Alex surprisingly. Then, slowly, he nodded and with a wave of his wand, the game went back to normal, Alex in Albus’ seat. Albus wasn’t too good, so he wasn’t too keen on playing chess. He gladly gave his position up for Alex. Alex took a seat at the Slytherin table for the first time, just to play Riley on chess.
Albus remembered wanting a debate between Alex and Riley. This was the next best thing. A chess game. It was exactly what he knew it’d be. A good game. It seemed Albus wasn’t the only one who took interest in seeing who would win either. Roxanne, Lucy, and even Molly from the Hufflepuff table came up to watch. Hugo and Lily watched standing up, preferring not to take seats and Gabriel and Daniel, for once just acting like brothers stood side by side, watching interestedly. Eric was watching too and Mark and Aries stood, hands entwined as they too watched the game.
“Oi, Al, Scorps, something you might be interested in,” Alex said, pushing an article over to him as he prodded his knight over to take Riley’s bishop.
Incommodo Reinstated, New Head of Law Enforcement Revealed
In a surprise move last night by the Minister for Magic Owen Cauldwell, former Head of Education Mors Incommodo was reinstated as the Head of the Department of Education, newly formed five years after the Second War against the Dark Lord. Having disappeared for the majority of his absence, he had nothing to say on the topic, instead vowing to push his agendas through with an Iron claw if necessary.
“Those who believed they could keep me out of the fray have been proven wrong,” Incommodo said from his office late last night. “Those who had previously opposed me are now gone,” added Incommodo in clear reference to Otto Blackberry and Harry Potter, former Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation and former Head of Aurors respectively.
Otto for his part has not been seen since his removal and Harry Potter accepted demotion quietly as Ronald Weasley took the reins in his stead. Incommodo offered no comment pertaining to Potter’s removal but Minister for Magic Owen Cauldwell did announce a surprising, eye-brow raising change to the Head of Law Enforcement.
Lucius Malfoy, a former lobbyist, former Death Eater and current Senior Assistant to the Minister for Magic was given the Head of the Law Enforcement job, replacing long-time head Ernest Macmillan. No comment was given from the former Head who also serves as Hogwarts professor but it has raised eyebrows in the Ministry as Minister Cauldwell appears to be driving the Ministry back.
A statement from Malfoy’s office reads… etc…
“Well, well, well,” Scorpius read quietly. “Grandfather in the Ministry. This is indeed a happy day.”
“Yeah, but if he does anything, you die so no pressure,” Alex mused as he ordered his Queen forward. Alex knew the exact moves to pull, the precise plans to execute, and the pieces too important to lose. To him, no piece was insignificant. All were important somehow, and had to serve some purpose in the game for it to be successful.
Riley showed disagreement, and sacrificed his knight to take his Queen out to show him. But then, Alex responded by taking his Bishop and Queen out without losing a piece. Ten minutes into the game, both sides were even and lacking a Queen. Even Alex commented honestly, “You’re good. Check.”
“Yes, I am,” Riley said in a bored voice. Albus knew what was coming. He moved his knight forward, “Checkmate.”
Alex smirked sadly, “I’ll play you again this weekend.”
“Doesn’t bother me.”
When noon came, Albus found himself with no one to talk to. Scorpius had a date with Laura, Mark was being kidnapped by Aries, and Alexis was still avoiding him. Albus even considered skipping Hogsmeade and retiring to the Common room but he went anyway. The Hogsmeade weekend came without the high spirits Albus usually had upon the approach of one. He usually went to the Three Broomsticks with Scorpius, and they dined there for whatever reason. They liked their Butterbeer, and took little interest in the shopping of other places. Scorpius often got sweets from home, and he shared with Albus some, so they didn’t need Honeydukes. They weren’t the joking type, so they didn’t need Zonko’s.
As Albus reached the gates, he saw something he didn’t expect to see any time soon. Cantharis was scrutinizing Laura, and his pooch was sniffing at her excessively. He looked about to yell, and Albus froze. If he yelled…
The same thing happened last year, but that time Mark took action. Since Mark was nowhere around, (and even if he was, he was likely to be held back by a jealous Aries,) Albus stepped forward. Cantharis had started talking. Well, here was one way to brighten the day up.
“What’s in your pocket?” Cantharis demanded.
“S-spare piece of parchment,” Laura stuttered.
“Take it out! Now! What’s this?” he demanded as she obliged. The parchment was taken and attempted to unfold. Something stuck it together. Cantharis went red, “Is this some kind of Charm you’re fooling me with?”
“It’s some gum,” Laura said girlishly.
“Well, you can get sweets from that Honey place, so move along!” he commanded, taking the parchment and gum away.
“My mum sent me this gum,” Laura whined.
“I don’t care if Merlin gave you the gum!” Cantharis said toughly. “You’re not going with”-
“Professor, she’s with me,” Albus said quickly.
Albus reached out for the parchment, taking advantage of Cantharis’ surprise, “She was holding it for me. Thank you, Laura.”
“She said she got it from home!”
“Well, isn’t Hogwarts home to everyone?” Albus offered tentatively.
Cantharis resignedly gave it back, but eyed Laura as she walked off with Albus. Albus told her quietly to keep her eyes off him, but she kept looking back. “Mark my words, Creevey. If I find you’ve been strutting around like a Princess, I’ll have your wand!”
“What’s his problem with you?” Albus whispered to her as he gave the gum and parchment back.
“He thinks I’m some Princess just because my daddy is a teacher,” Laura sighed.
Albus was quiet. He smiled to himself as Laura told him this. He remembered Mark and the twins always used to call her Princess Laura before Mark developed fondness for her. Albus couldn’t think what to say now. Talk to her. Talk to her. But easier thought than done. What was he going to talk to her about? She was a little girl to him, and now he thought of it, he had no clue what she was interested in.
Plus, wasn’t she supposed to be dating Scorpius that day? Deciding perhaps Scorpius was running late, he continued walking with her in silence. She did not refuse so he walked her the rest of the way. Then, Laura turned to him and asked, “Can I practice Divination with you real quick?” Albus stopped and raised an eyebrow. She went red, “I know it’s weird but I want to practice my palm reading. I’ve been wanting to do it to Colin because he never took Divination.”
Albus offered her his hand, bracing himself for the usual squirm in his stomach that came with it. It never came. It was just a girl taking his hand. She stared for a long time. She was never too good at this, but Albus was patient all the same. “I think this is a lifeline, but if it is…”
“Is it short?” Albus grinned.
“I dunno, define short,” Laura laughed. “It’s… not short… but it’s not long. Unless it’s a line of strength, which puts you at average. Then, that would be your lifeline and it’s pretty damn long.”
“Good to know, Trelawney always says I got a long life line,” Albus shrugged.
Laura looked up at him, and she looked solemn. Albus thought he knew what was coming. And as expected, “Do you think Scorpy will die?”
Albus shook his head, “No. He has to kill first.”
But Laura just laughed further. They arrived at the village with Albus wondering how to strike conversation… and if Scorpius would have a problem if he saw him with Laura. He remembered seeing her at the Quidditch World cup once, and her claiming her mother flew for the Tornadoes. He was surprised he remembered this but he happened to remember Laura complaining during a fight with Scorpius that her mother played Quidditch. “Um… so how many games do the Tornadoes have to your mum?” Albus asked. “She plays for them right?”
“Yeah, um, Al, thank you very much, but I said I’d meet Scorpy in the Three Broomsticks,” Laura said, as they arrived in Hogsmeade and stood outside the pub, feeling guilty and bad. “I’m sorry. Talk to you later? Thanks for before,” and she gave him a small wink before running off towards the Three Broomsticks.
Days of Albus and is soft spot for Laura were long gone, he realized. Not since Albus started talking with Alexis more. So with Alexis gone, Albus missed her too much to consider anyone else. Albus was seriously considering walking back to Hogwarts when a small group hailed him a little off the path. Hugo and Lily were there, excitedly saying, “We’re going to Hogsmeade. Riley got us through Cantharis by casting a cool Disillusionment Charm on us. We’re going!”
“We’re staying by the Shack though, or we might be seen by others,” Nate said happily as they walked off, Albus now part of them. He felt more at home with family members but Riley was there too. They walked down to the Shrieking Shack hill where they planned to hang out. His cousins Roxanne, Lucy, Hugo and Lily sat with them but there was also the Scamander twins, Gabriel Dagger and the siblings Riley and Nate Blackberry.
Though part of the group, Hugo and Lily just took a spot of grass a little way off and laid back beside each other to watch the clouds. They did not participate directly in the conversation. Riley graciously went to Honeydukes and the Three Broomsticks for the younger ones to let them enjoy Hogsmeade somewhat.
Nate was a rather interesting addition to Albus’ social group. Indeed, he and Lucy worked together to convince Riley to show off with laps around the hill. At one point, Gabriel asked if he could turn into a bat when Albus laughed out loud, convinced now that it had been worth it coming to Hogsmeade.
Riley shrugged, and got up in response. He sighed, and made a face as if pushing hard on something. Albus stared apprehensively, and soon, Riley’s eyes went from black to dead. He was blind. Albus was sure of it. He couldn’t see anything. Lorcan watched interestedly as Riley ran, at faster speed now, clicking his tongue, and dodging trees in response. Even Hugo and Lily raised their heads to watch in silence.
“Has means of location, speed, but no wings just yet,” Lysander said, awed by Riley’s performance. “I envy you, Riles.”
“Yes, he’s the envy of all students,” Gabriel grinned. “Who wouldn’t want to be a vampire?”
“Half- vampire,” Albus corrected.
“Even more enviable,” Gabriel shrugged. “Always wanted to have that sort of inner conflict.” Nate burst out laughing without warning, and took his wand out to conjure flowers, “You’re funny, Gabe. Here, take a reward.”
And without warning, Nate squirted water from his wand at Gabriel. He fell back, laughing over his plump body as Nate laughed over him, giving little mercy to the deep amusement of Lucy until Roxanne got Nate off him. Roxanne grinned, and took her own wand out, “Here, Gabe. Your hair is dripping.”
Meanwhile, Albus was watching his sister and cousin talking quietly. He sometimes wondered what it was they spoke about but he never asked. Somehow, it seemed like an invasion of privacy. Riley was muttering an incantation under his breath for Charms practice when Lysander looked at him as if he was an interesting object, and stated, “Something tragic is near you.” Silence followed this statement. Albus was used to Lysander’s quirky comments but this was surprising and sudden. Gabriel looked puzzled, and Lysander continued. “I sensed a Starm Klite near you. That means you’re gonna be really upset soon.”
“Ah, ha, ok, funny, Sander, I’ll just…” Gabriel moved slightly further away from Lysander. “I’ll just go sit with Roxanne over there.”
“I’m not talking to you,” Lysander said simply. “Al. You need to be careful.”
“What’s… a Starm Klite?” Albus asked uncertainly.
“Al, he says stuff like that all the time,” Lorcan said, rolling his eyes. “And funnily enough, all his Klites and Snorcacks and whatevers are all invisible. Don’t let it bother you.”
“They’re there,” Lysander huffed to Lorcan. “And I can prove it, here. Watch…”
Lysander sat staring intently at Albus, insisting he would feel a change in his ears but he felt nothing. After a whole minute, Lysander insisted they were no longer with Albus but Lorcan talked over him, “Sander, first the Snorkle Fairy and now this. When does it end?”
“Where else did we get the Unicorn hair and Acromantula venom from?” Lysander demanded.
The question, though it might have been answered by Albus, could not by Lorcan. Of course, neither had a memory of the forest adventure the previous year but Albus did. And he knew that they got it after Centaurs killed a small group of Acromantula.
“You know, you are very weird,” Nate said boldly, catching attention of Riley and Lorcan. It was when Lysander shrugged nonchalantly when Albus looked up in interest too. Riley widened his eyes slightly, “Don’t you care?”
“Not really,” Lysander shrugged. “I always admitted I was weird. I actually like it that way.”
“I can sympathize,” Gabriel said happily, drying himself off. “Weird is just unusual,” Gabriel informed them, shrugging.
“You see, us weird people… Gabriel and I,” Lysander explained, smiling in an almost mysterious way Albus never saw before. “We’re free.”
“Yeah,” Gabriel yawned. “It’s the Normies I feel bad for. They have a certain order to follow, certain social rules expected of them. Us weird people can do what we like… and to hell with society.”
Albus was with them slightly until he averted his gaze to the shack itself. Something inside was stirring. And as if responding to his fears, a tattered curtain fluttered and in its place stood Soto Lean, watching them from the window interestedly. He appeared very non-threatening and Albus was actually convinced it was an illusion because when he blinked and shook his head, he was gone.
Lysander put a hand on Albus’ shoulder and pointed to the shack. For a wild second, Albus thought he too saw Soto but he still pointed, “Look. Starm Klites are all there. They left you and are there now. See? I’m not lying.”
Albus could not see anything except he tattered curtains fluttering slightly as if they had just been touched. Albus felt very uncomfortable and was grateful when Riley called for them all to follow him back to school. They had to leave early or they might be seen with the rest of the crowd and with the day half done, no one was standing guard. They could walk in any time they wanted.
And as they got closer to Hogsmeade and further from the Shack, Albus felt a tad safer but still tensed up. It was like an old fear had awakened. He tried ignoring Soto but the man continued haunting him and would always haunt him until he was dealt with. Was it possible he took up residence in the Shrieking Shack?
Riley led the group one way and Albus might have gone with them had he not felt a sudden, tender, familiar tap on his shoulder. A tap he loved from a hand he wanted to squeeze. The hand belonged to, (and his heart did a leap of hope as he looked at) Alexis Ackerly. She had a tentative smile on her face as she offered her hand to his and said, “Want to take a walk with me?”