The Goblin’s Amulet
Chapter 4: The New Arrival
For as long as Albus could remember, Harry was the one who pulled the solutions out and fixed everything, at home and out. There was never a failure. He even helped end the emotionally damaging enmity between Albus and Mark. Mark became orphaned in their first year and Harry opened his doors to him. The problems with the Goblins in second year saw Harry fix things. Even though he faced humiliation, Harry recovered very quickly and his image was saved. Even though he resigned in Albus’ third year, he did so strategically and still held plenty of sway within the Ministry. When Scorpius Malfoy, Albus’ best friend doubted him, Harry came up and defended himself in the best way possible, gaining respect within the Malfoy family itself. Incommodo was always beaten one way or another. Now…
Now, Harry left the Ministry. Out of protest, he resigned. And the manner of it, to Albus showed nothing more or less than weakness. Harry Potter, the hero of two generations since the 1980’s, was beaten. To Mark’s surprise and Lily’s misery, Albus did not speak to Harry for the majority of the remaining summer weeks left. After Albus was forced to find out from his least favorite person in the world that his father as well as his Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher resigned from their Ministry posts, Albus was almost furious. Not because Soto told him, but because whatever Incommodo and Soto wanted, Harry was out of the way. They had a clear field and it was by Harry’s consent. The only one standing in their way was Headmaster Galadral Phoenix and Albus knew little of his influence.
The summer passed with Harry and Albus completely at odds. Harry had one visit with Albus, hugged him, congratulated him, and wished him well… but Albus was unresponsive. He gave him the cold shoulder, fell silent during meals, refused to talk about what Soto told him, Mark and Lily (though this was more or less an unspoken agreement between the three) and eventually, Harry gave it up.
On September 1st, Albus boarded the train for his fourth year and he had to be honest with himself, he was glad he finally left the house. Soto walking in also showed just how meaningless their own well-being was at home, Albus felt much safer at Hogwarts. Albus looked around in the compartments for Scorpius, and on his way caught sight, thanks to Rose, of a strange looking man. He was not as tall as Redgrow or Era, but held some height nonetheless. He had blonde hair falling over his ears, and a scar running over his left cheek, and there, what must’ve been more defining about this man, above the scar, over his eye, was a patch. His sight looked alarming and Albus could tell from the beginning that one would cross this teacher at his or her own peril.
“New teacher?” Rose muttered.
Albus shrugged glumly, “Macmillan didn’t resign from Hogwarts too, did he?”
No more speculation was given; however, when Scorpius finally caught up with them. Albus opened an empty compartment happily and raised his hand in greeting.
“Hi, Al!” Scorpius greeted happily. Albus grinned as he and Rose took their seats across from him. It seemed Scorpius had finally changed. For years, he resisted, but it finally worked against him. His hair was receded to the back now and he was a little bit taller, so roughly the same height as Albus, and his voice was broken.
Before conversation could take place, the compartment slid open, and a small boy stood in the opening. The boy had blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. A rather small build, but with a couple of freckles on his face, he looked very timid and shy.
“Can I sit here, there’s nowhere else,” the boy said uncertainly.
Predicting correctly what would come next, Albus looked at Scorpius. Scorpius’ face was alight with excitement only Albus could understand. Indeed, he looked positively delighted. Since his first year, before he himself was sorted, Scorpius never failed on changing at least one person’s mind concerning Slytherin house. There was no doubt he would try again this time.
But first, Scorpius had a more pressing topic in mind. The topic of conversation was very predictable. Scorpius pressed Albus for questions on what happened in Diagon Alley. Albus found himself summarizing, to Scorpius and a very interested blonde boy, everything with as much detail as possible, telling Scorpius of Incommodo, (his friend cringed at the mention of his name,) his speech, introduction of Soto, and the launch of what they called the Arsenal of Education before some people in white, (Albus did not specify because Scorpius had no memory of the reservation beyond the forest) appeared and attacked. He ended with him repelling the Dementor, the revelation of the girl and her subsequent death.
Scorpius did not really know what to say, especially in company of a boy neither of them knew. Finally, Scorpius resigned himself. “Did you see Grandfather there? He wouldn’t tell me a thing.”
Albus searched his memory. It was filled with bangs, screaming, and spells being fired. He could not remember every face in the crowd. But then, he recalled Otto calling for Malfoy to help him and he remembered seeing both Malfoys as part of the group trying to contain the situation. Slowly, he nodded and Scorpius egged him on for more information.
“He tried calming everything down,” Albus said simply.
Scorpius looked surprised at this piece of information, as if he expected something different. Albus needed not ask for Scorpius shrugged and said, “Grandfather never, ever tried to aid the Ministry directly. Why did he start now?”
“Did he tell you anything about the caster?” Albus asked curiously. For a wild moment, Albus imagined that perhaps it was Lucius who took over control of the girl and made her cast the Dark Mark. But the thought perished when Scorpius spoke next, “Just that it appeared to be a girl under something called the Imperius Curse. Incommodo’s followers killed her before we could get any information. So, he couldn’t say much.”
“What’s the Imperius Curse?”
Scorpius had a strange cold look about him as he appeared to be remembering a lecture from long ago, perhaps before Hogwarts. “Controls your mind. Can even make you do something you usually cannot do. Theoretically, you could cast it on a girl her age and have her attempt murder, and if she dies, no one can tell if she was Imperiused or not. We’re in the dark.”
Albus of course, had never heard of such a curse. He knew of the Killing Curse since second year but any other piece of Dark Magic had eluded him. Scorpius appeared very uncomfortable too and even the small first year boy seemed rather bored. Scorpius simply gave a look that suggested they would get more into it later and turned to the boy instead, finally changing track from the rather depressing subject.
It was hours but eventually, the foursome would take a carriage and ride to Hogwarts, where the magnificent Great Hall awaited them as they filed in to the room. The long house tables awaited them, and up atop the Great table was the line of teachers overlooking the students. Albus scanned the table for any hint that a teacher may have left.
They sat down at the Slytherin table with Riley Blackberry and Walter Mold. Their comic friend Gabriel Dagger was already sitting across. Gabriel was a small boy, a little short for his age, and had brown hair. Walter’s brother Malcolm was on the other side of the table with his sour-looking sister Samantha. Samantha waved shortly at Albus as he took his seat.
The line of first years were the next to arrive. Albus then felt a bit of hope. Professor Era of Slytherin House marched forward and placed the sorting hat on the three-legged stool, and stood back. She was once again heading the ceremony, meaning that she took back her position as Deputy Headmistress after the last year. As usual, the hat burst into song.
I face you now, the first years,
And I know all your fears.
But I ask you not to worry,
I’ll begin this with a story.
I assure you, it’s not scary,
Founder’s four began the school
For unity, though creed’s the fool.
Slytherin the first to leave
And simmering hatred between them weave.
The pointless sorting, it is wrong
Though I face quite the throng.
Gryffindor, he takes the brave,
Ravenclaw, for smarts she’ll crave.
Hufflepuff, all too loyal,
Slytherin. Yes. He will spoil.
I sort you now to houses four
The same old Hogwarts lore
I warn you now, don’t be split
Young and fresh, your mind are lit
Albus clapped with everyone else as Era once again read the names from the long piece of parchment:
This was Albus’ least favorite part. The sorting. He found it boring, and scarcely looked up to watch someone getting sorted. He rested his head on the table, and shut his eyes. He didn’t know then if he ever got to sleep, but if he did, it wasn’t long, because Scorpius poked him awake. Albus opened his eyes in time to hear Seth Lean being called.
The hat didn’t take too long. One look into Seth’s head, and it called, “SLYTHERIN!”
Scorpius clapped heartily, and pat Seth’s back as the boy took a seat happily beside Scorpius. The sorting must’ve been going on for half an hour, and then:
“Al, Al, Tulip’s brother! Oh, man!” Scorpius whispered quietly. “If I’d have known, I’d have tried to”-
Jonathan, a small boy with brown hair like his sister Tulip, he possessed one difference that made him stand out. His hair was spiked up.
When Neville finally put the hat down after sorting Fiona Zoe into Ravenclaw, Galadral stood up as Neville took a seat. “Welcome, everyone, welcome back to Hogwarts! Now, before we immerse ourselves in the great feast we provide, I have a few major notices to give. We’re doing a change of staff this year. It seems, after much deliberation this summer, the Hogwarts school governors decided time is ripe for an optional dueling class that will be provided to students of all years!” he announced to much cheering in the hall.
“Former Head of Aurors Professor Georg Vulneroman will be our Dueling teacher.” The man they spotted on the train stood up to greet them. “And whilst on the subject, I would like to explain. Dueling class will be optional, held every Saturday, used mainly to put a stop to nonsensical dueling within the grounds. This leads me to a new rule, there is no longer an excuse for dueling, unauthorized on school grounds. Those who are interested shall see Vulneroman in his office before next week.” And while some students clapped, this round was less enthusiastic due obviously to his intimidating looks.
“Quidditch tryouts will be held next week also. Consult Master Cantharis who can be reached by means of his dog, or go directly to your Head of House; Professors Era, Redgrow, Macmillan, or Ackerly. I give a final welcome to our new pupils, and let the feast begin!”
At his words, the plates filled with delicious looking food. The hall erupted in the clatter of spoons and forks, and everyone had started chatting about the changes in staff. Indeed, even Riley was surprised, and said in his newly broken voice “Vulneroman doesn’t look a jolly lot.”
“I find pirates jolly,” Gabriel noted quietly.
“Just ‘cause he has a patch doesn’t make him a”-
“The scar does,” Gabriel grinned. “Honestly, all he’s missing is a wooden leg. And let’s face it; with something as dangerous as dueling classes, let’s not count the idea out just yet.”
Albus looked around slowly, trying to catch anything else out of the ordinary. No Ministry worker was there, no new teacher save the intimidating man, in fact everything looked as normal as it had the previous year. Still, he did catch sight of a girl sitting at the far end of the Gryffindor table whom he had never seen before but he did not think too much of it yet. She seemed to be trying to catch Mark’s eyes but Mark was in conversation, perhaps determinedly, with Laura Creevey. His stomach squirmed that wasn’t related to hunger.
As they started eating through their feast, they had another unexpected visitor. Mark Wallader from the Gryffindor table made his way over and sat himself between Albus and Scorpius without so much of a greeting. Scorpius started protesting but Mark waved him off, “Don’t ask. I’ll tell you later. But I’m sticking with you guys tonight.”
“Just shut up!” Mark whispered almost angrily.
Scorpius decided on another tact as Seth asked him if this was normal, “Mark, you’re one of my best friends,” (Mark stared disbelievingly at him) “But I’m not the one you should worry about. If Malcolm sees you here…”
“He’ll duel me and die,” Mark whispered back. “It’ll be great entertainment for all our first years. Can you just trust me??????”
Mark looked so intense and wary and Albus was on the point of blackmailing him into telling the truth when…
“There you are!!!!!” a high, excited and almost squeaky voice exclaimed.
Albus and Scorpius jumped as Mark went wide-eyed at the calling. Before anyone could ask what was happening, a pair of fair arms wrapped themselves around Mark. At first, Albus guessed that it was Laura Creevey, but she was sitting at the Gryffindor table. So then, who…
Mark was dragged up and forced beside a girl the exact same height as him. He girl he had spied earlier. The two looked almost strikingly similar, Albus may have guessed they were siblings before he remembered that Mark was an only child. The girl had blonde hair combed back where it ended in curls and her wide smile as second to none. She looked positively delighted to be beside Mark.
Scorpius was at a loss, “Erm…”
“Mark,” Albus said slowly. “Want to introduce me?”
The girl switched facial expressions from happy and delighted to apprehensive and deadly serious in a heartbeat, “Introduce who?”
“He’s… just a friend,” Mark muttered sheepishly. Albus had never seen Mark look so sheepish or quiet before.
And the girl switched back to happy as if there was an on switch located somewhere on her. “Oh, I guess that’s ok. Well, come along. I’ve been looking everywhere for you. I have so much to tell you.”
Mark looked so helpless as the girl dragged him off back to the Gryffindor table. Albus stared after him in utter shock and confusion. Scorpius just looked in wonder. “What”-
“Who was that?” Albus demanded.
“I dunno,” Scorpius said defensively. “I’ve never seen her before in my life!”
“New student?” Gabriel asked.
“Do we get new students in Hogwarts?” Albus asked Scorpius.
“I dunno, why’re you asking me?”
“Well, her very presence screams these questions!”
“And you think I’d know?” Scorpius said back. “What makes you think I’d know? I’m a student like you, Al.”
Scorpius seemed so confused, it was irritating him. Albus shot back, “Your grandfather is a school governor!”
“Not anymore! Leave me alone!”
Albus gave it up and looked up at the Gryffindor table. The girl was sitting right next to Mark, speaking nonstop. Even the twins, which were Mark’s closest friends and the only family he had left, were sidelined. Laura Creevey, who actually scored a date with Mark the year before, seemed very sour and it was common knowledge that she harbored a persistent crush on Mark since forever.
Before any more speculation could take place, the food disappeared and Headmaster Phoenix stood up once more, “I hope all were fed up enough. Now, we must bid all goodnight. If Prefects could lead first years to their dormitories, we will see you all tomorrow morning in classes.”
“Just forget about it,” Scorpius shrugged. “Mark will tell us in his own time.”
“Mark’s my foster brother,” Albus said as Seth was swept off by a prefect. “If I don’t know about it now…”
“There goes Seth,” Scorpius noted. “C’mon. We ought to go to bed too.”
And Albus knew for sure, whether it was the arrival of the strange girl, the meeting with Soto, the incident in Diagon Alley or all three even, Albus was convinced this year would be his most abnormal yet. For the first time after any feast, Albus walked with tension shaking his legs. No. This year would not be normal at all.