Chapter 3 Soto’s Offer

The Goblin’s Amulet

Chapter 3: Soto’s Offer

Albus did not open his eyes just yet. The events were so mixed up in his head, he did not yet know what had happened. He knew Incommodo appeared and he provoked a response from the Ministry. He knew someone did not like Otto Blackberry of the International Department taking charge and a riot started. Then a stampede. Then, the Dementors. Though they were long gone, Albus remembered them clearly. He did not see them, did not even know if there was more than one. He just knew their effects. He knew it had gone dark and someone took cover of the darkness and used…

Albus remembered. A girl was caught. He remembered her small, terrified face as she was caught with the wand. And then, he remembered the curse. A curse was fired. Two curses were fired. The Killing Curse and the Dark Mark itself. A curse Albus knew too well. A curse Albus had only read about. And someone, definitely, or most probably had died. Mark.

The looming thought hit him and he snapped awake, “Mark!”

“AL!” a familiar voice yelled again. Albus was shaken but there he was, shaking hand on his shoulder. If Albus was worried Mark had died, his fears were allayed. He was fine. Albus was in his bed, sitting up with Mark, Hugo, Rose, Alex and Eric and Uncle Ron around him.

Before he could express relief, he retched over the floor, making Mark yelp in surprise and Lily covering her eyes. Alex turned his face away determinedly and Rose gasped before saying she had to get her mum. After the shock was over, Mark and Lily walked over and covered him up more. Mark shook his head and resigned himself to use a spell to clean the mess up.

After Albus managed to calm down a little bit, he looked up, “You’re ok?” he asked Mark.

“You vomited. You’re the one who got trampled and you ask if I’m ok?” Mark asked incredulously with Alex offering a shaky laugh. “No, Al, I’m dead. What about you?”

“Wh-wh- what happened?” Albus asked shakily.

Hugo did not respond verbally but he did make a kind of squealing noise, like he did not want to talk about it. His hand was tightly around Lily who rested her head on his shoulder.

“A lot of commotion apparently,” Alex shrugged. “Where’s Rosie?”

“I’ll tell you later,” Mark shook his head.

He may have gotten away with it too but Lily tapped his shoulder and said, “Just tell him, Mark.”

Mark sighed and shook his head, “Dad took control over the situation, Professor Macmillan used his clout and took charge after some of Incommodo’s followers for inciting violence and Harry is meeting with the Minister now.”

“What happened with that girl?” Albus asked. Mark seemed a little bothered about something. He kept his head down, as if not wanting to say anything yet. But Albus kept his eyes on him expectantly before saying, “Well…”

Mark sighed and with what looked like great effort, he said, “She died, Al.”

Albus slowly widened his eyes in horror. The girl he had seen, the frightened little thing who had been possessed or controlled… was dead. A part of Albus wanted to throw up again but he knew he could not. How could that have happened? Mark for one seemed very bothered but Albus remembered Mark saying he feared death. For him to know that a girl younger than himself had died…

“She- she was too scared to say a thing in her defense and… Incommodo’s people…” Mark looked close to tears. The sight, though Albus missed it must have been frightening. “Look, you’ll find things out. Rest assured Harry will tell you everything. It’s all over the news anyway. Harry Potter’s son was injured. Everyone is up in arms and Incommodo is silent. No one’s seen Soto either. It’s like the whole thing never happened. Only they got a death on their conscience.”

“Albus,” Aunt Hermione said from the doorway. Beside her was Rose and she walked forward, checking his head as if for temperature. “Well, you seem fine. Your father will tell you everything. I suspect Soto will too because… I believe Harry is bringing Soto along with him when he comes back. He has requested to meet you.”

“What?”

“Al’s not meeting anyone without me,” Mark said firmly.

Lily stood beside him, seemingly in agreement and for a large wonder, Hermione nodded as if it mattered little. “The more with him, the more comfortable I’ll feel. Professor Macmillan is assigning two guards and your Uncle Ron is assigning three Aurors while he meets you but don’t expect him for a couple of hours.”

With that bombshell, Hermione left the room, leaving Albus only with more questions and anticipation that he would have to meet the man who once tried killing him. What was Harry playing at? Could Albus trust him enough to have faith that Harry knew exactly what he was doing?

“Why would Soto want to meet you?” Rose asked Albus.

“Soto will likely have his own motives,” Alex muttered with a shrug as if it hardly mattered.

“It was Incommodo’s idea though,” Eric said pointedly. “I’m guessing that those men who came to fight Incommodo were with him. You’re saying they surrounded Soto but did not fire?”

“They fired at Incommodo and somewhat shielded Soto,” Albus said from beside Hugo who took a deep interest in this.

“Possibly a sign,” Alex guessed. “The two are allied so why fire at one and not the other?”

Albus knew, but neither he nor Mark could say it. It also seemed Lily, who too knew what was up, kept her mouth shut. Soto was with the reservation that attacked Incommodo. He was with them mere months ago when Albus, Mark and Lily met him again. They definitely had a relationship.

“It still doesn’t add up,” Mark protested. “He came with Incommodo over here, remember? He was against dad’s position and both of them asked for Phoenix and Harry resigning.”

“So, he got what he wanted,” Eric shrugged.

“So, he has Soto form a new purpose,” Hugo piped up surprisingly. “No, wait… a purpose to unite us again behind him. But… could backfire…” he looked unsure of himself.

Rose and Alex looked interestedly and considered it for a second. “You know,” Alex said supportively. “That may just be true. Incommodo has Soto form a group so he himself could distance himself from public eye again. But it’ll backfire as the men in white showed.”

“Yeah, and the men in white,” Hugo recalled. “Maybe- maybe Soto isn’t all bad?” he asked, hoping to be praised again.

Rose considered further but this time said sadly, “Viable theory but naïve. He threatened Uncle Harry, remember? And don’t get me started on what happened in second year. His motives may be different but still… questionable.”

“Yeah, the world isn’t split into good and bad,” Alex said to Hugo. “They could both be against each other but still on opposite sides of the spectrum. They could have their own motives. Who knows?”

Hugo quieted himself down just as Hermione walked in once again, face shining with concern and apprehension as she uttered only three words. Just those three were enough to put everyone on edge. “He came early.”

Albus froze in shock. Hermione took the initiative and ordered Alex and Eric out and her own children to top things. The only ones who stayed were Mark and Lily, though all three of them were overcome with a feeling on unease. For the first time, Soto was being allowed inside their house. Despite all ill feelings, he dared to show himself in the Potter household and talk directly with the very Potters whom he had tried killing, whose memories he tried erasing, and whose father he demanded a resignation from.

They sat, watching the door. Eventually, there sounded a soft knock. Albus’ heart leapt but it was only Harry Potter. He took one look at a nervous Albus Potter and nodded, “Chin up, Al. Ron’s standing outside the door and three Law Enforcement officials are standing outside. His wand will be confiscated before he enters so he cannot try a thing. Don’t worry.”

This may have made Albus feel a bit better but before he could process this fully, a familiar, mean figure moved past Harry and into the room. The same man who held himself with a high posture. Robes of black with a white twister falling into the void. Black hair with blonde highlights on the side. The smile that Albus grew to hate. This was who presided over the man who once tried to kill Mark. Though in all fairness, the man was in Azkaban.

“Leave us, please,” Soto said quietly to Harry, who nodded reluctantly, cringed his teeth, and left. The door shut and Soto turned to the three students he had so recently faced. “Well, I think before we get to any unhappy talks, we agree on one thing. We agree to be honest and fair with one another as we talk this out. I myself am accomplished enough to know when you’re lying so I advise you all not to try. Understood?” Without waiting for an answer, he started, “Apparently, the four of us got off on the very wrong foot. I was nearly responsible for your death,” he added to Mark. “I tried taking both you and your foster brother hostage, and I tried erasing the memories of all three of you over an extraordinary adventure into the forest. A land you never should have entered.”

“Fact is we did,” Mark said lowly and through gritted teeth. “And we remember all of it.”

That last line seemed to bother Soto if only for a moment before he regained himself. “Yes, and that is a fact we must all deal with. However, this is not why I came. First off, I am coming to verify politically and personally, out of courtesy really, that none of you were injured too severely in this latest riot.”

Silence. Soto stared persistently, as if waiting for a response. Finally, of all people, Lily was the one who spoke as bravely as she could, “I didn’t go. But Al was nearly trampled and Mark defended him.”

“I see, and the Dementor that attacked?”

“I repelled it,” Albus said grumpily to Mark’s wide-eyed surprise.

“I see, and the repellant revealed the caster,” Soto said honestly. “Or rather, the supposed caster. The true one got away and it’s become my… interest to find out who it is. For the sake of clarity, I was not involved in such madness. And… I hate to burst your bubble but both the Law Enforcement Head and your father resigned from their posts over the… unfortunate accident.”

“Accident?” Mark repeated in shock.

“Resigned?” Albus repeated.

“Ramifications of war,” Soto shrugged as if it hardly mattered. “And with one in the works… inevitably looking closer, there is little one can do but protest in defiance of the Ministry. Looks like the government never learns.” He paused, as if sharing a small joke with himself before carrying on. “The second order of business we must get to requires separate conversations with the three of you.”

“Never,” Albus refused.

“We’re together on this, so don’t even try separating us,” Mark threatened him.

Soto seemed flabbergasted for a moment and seemed to consider something before forcing a nod and saying, “Very well. We’ll have to resort to Plan B. Wallader, you are aware, I presume of your parent’s killer…”

This statement seemed to hit Mark in the head. He let out a small gasp and stared at Soto in shock, as if he just realized something about this man. Soto seemed to be enjoying Mark’s reaction. Mark looked like he was on the point of firing a spell at him. After all, all three of them had arms. He was outgunned. Mark gritted his teeth and blurted out, “You’re allied with him!”

Albus looked in surprise at Mark. Mark had never told Albus who the killer was. Harry had told Mark mere months ago. Now, Mark gave the biggest hint. The only man Soto was allied with was none other than Incommodo. Soto seemed unbothered and shrugged, “I am. Our interests align for the moment. However, if you cooperate with me, at any time I may ask for your help, your parent’s killer will pay dearly. I promise you that. If you want your parent’s killer to come to justice, you’ll do well to listen to me.”

Mark was silent. Having completed his mission with Mark, Soto turned next to Lily, the weakest of the group and sat down, lowering himself to her level. “Three times now, under my eyes, your brothers have been threatened, nearly killed, memories wiped, trampled, your father’s position was lost… and we both know your family cannot dodge the bullet forever. One day, one day soon, someone you hold dear is going to be killed. While I can promise you it will not be done with my consent, I cannot guarantee you their safety unless… unless you cooperate with me where I ask for it, understand? I can grant protection to whomever I wish, including your cousins, brothers, and even your friends. But I will need cooperation.”

Lily seemed shocked and very disturbed. With great effort, she looked up into his eyes and said in a whisper, “I don’t believe you.”

Soto grinned, shook his head in pity and said, “No, you do believe me.” And he turned lastly to Albus. “You have a couple of duties to take care of. But we can infer from our previous meetings that since your second year, we have had unwanted run-ins. You’ve managed to run into danger, you took the trap the reservation laid for you, and you will continue falling for all of our tricks until eventually, you lose someone close. While that someone may not be part of your extended family, that someone may well be sitting with us in this room right now. So as against your better judgment this may be, if you want your family to remain safe, I advise you to make peace with me.”

And Soto got up, nodded at all three of them without so much of a smile, and said, “That will be all. I expect we’ll… be in touch. One way or another. This will not be our last meeting.”

He waved his hand and the door flew open, forcing two Aurors, Uncle Ron and three Law Enforcement officials back. He walked right past them without a word or acknowledgment and disappeared down the hall. Mark, on the other hand was silent, Lily shaking, and Albus… Albus needed to sleep. None of them could speak a word to each other. Because each of them were seriously considering Soto’s words, however, evil they may have been.

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