Chapter 9 The Serpent’s Stooge

The Goblin’s Amulet

Chapter 9: The Serpent’s Stooge

The Goblin’s amulet was hidden very safely. Albus had tied it into his Invisibility cloak he got from his father. He placed every protective Charm he knew on it, thanks mainly to the help Alexis offered during previous years. As far as he knew, no student in Hogwarts could make it into his trunk. A Goblin on the other hand was a different story. And Albus had Soto to thank for that.

Soto had kept his promise though, and with that, solved the uneasy conflict inside Albus. Whatever reasons Albus had for disliking his father’s inaction had evaporated for though he quit his job, Harry had just come back with a vengeance. The Daily Prophet got even Scorpius interested in the headline news, and plenty of students coming over to congratulate Albus as if they were all on good terms with him.

Harry Potter Reinstated as Goblins Announce Search of Hogwarts:

Former Auror Harry Potter was reinstated as Head of Aurors last night following tense diplomatic exchanges with the Goblins and a diplomat from the newly formed Arsenal of Education. His former partner Ron Weasley is expected the hand the reigns back to Harry Potter without difficulty as the Ministry begins reshuffling heads of key departments, including some sources say, the Department of Education which is headed by Mors Incommodo.

Harry Potter reluctantly accepted the position provided Incommodo was removed from his post. Incommodo for his part went missing. Head of Gringotts, Grimlock Goblin welcomed the news of Incommodo’s removal and Potter reinstatement while noting that almost every vault was searched to no avail for their missing item, the object which is yet unknown to the Wizarding community.

“But make no mistake, we will resort to measures including searching homes, even the Ministry. We will overturn the entire Wizarding world for our missing item if need be.”In the meantime, it is reported that Headmaster of Hogwarts Galadral Phoenix has agreed to allow four Goblins in to search Hogwarts over a period of a week. This has caused plenty of raised eyebrows, especially within the Department of Education as it is noted that the last time Magical Beings were allowed into the school was during the 1993-94 academic school year when then-Headmaster Professor Albus Dumbledore allowed Dementors in to search for who was believed to be a notorious mass murderer.

Harry Potter for his own part promised to assist the Goblins in searching for their item in an effort to reduce long-standing tensions between the Goblins and the Ministry. Tensions with the Goblins reached a climax a year ago when…

Albus looked up from the paper, head still reeling from the recent news. Harry had taken his old job back? Even when it was clear Soto needed this to happen? It was clearer to Albus that Soto orchestrated this somehow. He stated countless times that he needed Harry at the top post. What Soto’s relationship was with Incommodo; however, and how he felt about Incommodo being removed, Albus was still uncertain.

One thing for sure though, Soto had just demonstrated his power and influence. More than that, if the Goblins were going to request a search of Hogwarts, Albus was in danger. If he was discovered…

And if Soto was the only one Albus knew with the power and ability to protect those inside while the Goblins searched the castle…

Albus found the boy Soto was interested in sitting under a tree. Apart from the interaction Albus and Scorpius had with him on the train, they barely talked otherwise. Albus started considering walking up to initiate conversation with Seth when he heard a faint muttering from behind the tree he was near. Looking to the other side of the tree, he saw little Laura Creevey, head over a revision book of Defense Against the Dark Arts, since Macmillan promised them a test next week when half the class was acting up.

Albus had not seen her since they were introduced to Aries Kimble. She must have been distraught, judging mainly by her absence from Transfiguration the next day and her quiet attitude the day after.

“What’s up?” he asked calmly, getting her attention effectively. “Revising?”

“Yeah,” Laura said in a small voice, looking over behind the tree to where Mark was sitting with the twins and Aries. Albus could sense the falsity in her voice. “Every curse has a counter-curse. Do you agree or disagree?”

“Agree, but you usually revise with Mark,” Albus inquired. “Why the change?”

“It’s pretty clear that ship sailed a long time ago,” Laura said in the same small voice. “What, by definition is a counter-curse?”

“A spell that nullifies or renders a curse unusable. And yeah, well, he never has been open,” Albus muttered, now knowing exactly why he was speaking of Mark in that way. And in spite of himself, he continued, “He said himself he doesn’t like the status he’s in. Maybe you have a chance. Or, there are other kids who would love to talk to you,” Albus said to her, trying to sound casual.

“We both know Aries will keep him within her undying clutches,” Laura said miserably. “What’s a curse and will any of them work on Aries?”

Albus laughed on the outside but on the inside, he was battling it out. Albus had been trying to deny his feelings the entire time, but as he sat with Laura, he did not know if he should speak good of Scorpius or put him down. Then, there was the Alexis factor. How would she feel?

Scorpius is your mate. He’d be justifiably upset if you tried anything. And Alexis… would probably be as distraught as Laura.

“A spell that causes harm and after last dueling class, I doubt there are,” he asked, still undecided on the internal conflict within. “Spend time with other people.”

“But she’s so sad. I need to help her. How can I resist?”

“Like who” she challenged. “Name one Unforgivable Curse. Oh, that’s easy.”

He’ll fight with you.

Albus decided what he’d do just as Laura finished writing and got up. “It’s not my place to say but… Scorpius really likes you, you know. And unlike Mark, he doesn’t ignore you. Neither do I,” he added as an afterthought.

Laura seemed semi-interested as she stared up thoughtfully, pushing the parchment into her messy bag, “Noted,” she said casually. “Thanks for helping me revise, by the way.”

Left with that, Albus made his way to where Seth was sitting. He was still at a loss of how to initiate conversation. He barely spoke to Sth but he was running a tight schedule. How did one get from introductions to a warning about his father in one week? And in what way was Seth Lean connected to Soto Lean…?

That’s it… Albus thought sheepishly as he stopped in sudden realization half way there. The part of his mind that always spoke in Alexis’ rational voice said, you didn’t catch this earlier?

Soto spoke of Seth’s father because he was Seth’s father. This was Soto’s way of telling Albus just that. And his way of testing Albus further. Would he do what Soto wanted with his son when this would only benefit Soto himself? But Soto surely had other ways. No, this was simply a test. A test to gauge Albus’ response to it. And in all honesty, Albus had little choice. If Soto could protect those inside Hogwarts…

They’re already safe, Al, Alexis told him in his head. It’s Hogwarts.

Albus was split. Should he continue on? Should he initiate conversation with Seth Lean? Was it the right thing to do?

Against his better judgment and the thought of Goblins entering Hogwarts pushing him on, Albus sat right next to the boy in question. Seth looked down in silence, as if in thought, pondering something. Like Albus was at that age, he was very thoughtful for an eleven year-old boy. Then…

“What’s up?” Albus looked over and saw Seth looking straight at him through his blue eyes. “Need something?”

“Erm…”

“I’m Seth Lean by the way,” Seth said simply. “And you’re Albus Potter. Malfoy told me about you.”

“Yeah…”

Seth started introducing himself in more words than needed. Albus was at a complete loss. How was he supposed to say anything to this boy? Seth was connected to Soto somehow, his son, a young cousin, anything… what did Soto mean? Albus couldn’t do it. He couldn’t tell Seth something he was sure he already knew. Albus already felt guilty that he was even considering doing what Soto wanted.

He seemed to be only ok. He wasn’t prejudiced and admitted he had a few friends in Ravenclaw and one in Gryffindor. But, Albus could sense some superiority in there. Seth wasn’t the good guy, like Lorcan or Gabriel. He was different. Very different.

“What’s your heritage?” Albus asked tiredly that evening.

Seth hesitated before answering tentatively, “Half-blood. And what’s up with you?”

“Albus Potter, friends call me Al,” Albus introduced.

Seth nodded, and he smiled. “I’ll call you Al, then. Half blood too?” Albus nodded and he had to admit. He liked the smile on Seth’s face. It seemed very good natured. “So, you’re a Potter, huh? Muggle lover?”

“Yeah,” Albus said shortly, as if daring Seth to disagree.

“I have a friend a year younger than me, he’s Muggle-born so…” he seemed to be trying to relate to Albus, like any child would. Seth was a child. Was Albus right in his assumption or was their shared last name an accident? Albus decided he had to push for it. He had nothing to lose. If anything Seth would see him as a creep. What did Albus care?

“Listen, your last name is Lean?”

“Yes, Soto is my father,” Seth said very blatantly and simply, as if on guard for this the whole time. “What about it?”

This was his chance. Albus went on, trying to sound nonchalant as he spoke though he was very confident that Seth knew more than he was letting on, “Then, when he wants me to tell you your father is being held by the Arsenal of Education…”

“He said you’d know what that means,” Seth said simply. “’Cause I have no idea.”

Albus was flustered. None of this made sense anymore. Seth admitted who Soto was. And he knew exactly what Albus was talking about. It was Albus who was supposed to get this. A part of him suggested Alexis would know but he could not ask her without telling her the whole story… and risk the letters between Albus and Soto being compromised. This had to stay quiet.

“But forget about my father, what about yours?” Seth asked, and suddenly, Albus disliked him. “Anything new? There’s something I’ve always wanted to know about Harry Potter, actually. Did he ever play Quidditch professionally?”

“Erm… no, not that I know of… my mum did though…”

“Oooooh, what team?” Seth asked enthusiastically as they got up to walk back inside.

“Holyhead Harpies.”

“Ugh, could’ve been better,” Seth shrugged. “Fine. Well, I read that Potter was good in his school days. Anything there?”

“Y-you’re interested in Quidditch?” Albus asked interestedly.

“No, not really,” Seth admitted. “But my Muggle-born friend wants to know all about it and I promised him I’d tell him in my next letter so…”

“Ok, well…” and Albus went on explaining Quidditch and the different teams out there and added a little bit of history to his own team the Appleby Arrows to raise sympathy for them. The two stood outside the Slytherin Common room entrance wall chatting amicably, as if Soto had never darkened their conversation to begin with. Of course, this did not mean that Albus forgot who Seth was.

The first one who met him at the Common room entrance when Albus separated with Seth was Ursa, who prowled off to tell Scorpius that Albus had come. As Albus went up to the dormitory he shared with Scorpius, Walter and Riley where he found Scorpius and Walter. Ursa jumped up onto Scorpius’ bed and Scorpius scooped him up, nodding at Albus. “There you are. Where were you?”

“Talking with Seth outside,” Albus said simply. “And I met up with Laura too.”

Scorpius looked interested but in front of Laura, he did not ask Albus anything. Did Albus want to tell him what he told Laura? Would Scorpius be happy about that? Or should Albus wait until Laura gave a definitive answer on the subject?

Scorpius looked over at the next bed to see Walter bending over his bed reading something. Albus could only guess what he was reading when Scorpius asked him what it was and Walter gave the expected answer.

“Daily Prophet article,” Walter shrugged. “Nothing much.”

“Anything new?” Albus asked, laying back on his bed.

“Not really, just your dad and Scorpius’ dad being accused of conspiring together to take Incommodo out of Education office.”

Scorpius let out a small noise that sounded like the beginning of a laugh and Albus widened his eyes, “That’s new. My dad hates Scorps’ dad.”

“Hey, thanks, Al,” Scorpius said happily. “Well, they both have a common enemy, don’t they? I say let us work… and then we shall do battle for control of the Ministry.”

“Meh, I lose amusement,” Walter shrugged, folding the paper up. “Now, if my father had ruled the Ministry, things would be very different. For one thing, people like Potter, Malfoy, or Incommodo would not exist and Phoenix and Blackberry would have been imprisoned a long time ago. Pure bloods would be on the rise, not the decline, and everyone would be happy.”

“Except Muggle-borns,” Albus and Scorpius said in unison and Albus looked at Scorpius in pleasant surprise.

“Well, it’s true,” Scorpius shrugged. “Sorry Walter, but after two wars, I don’t think I’m up for trying that Muggle-born eradication thing all over again. I’m taking the winning side.”

“Plus Incommodo is out according to the Prophet,” Albus said simply.

“Yeah, kind of disappointed in him,” Walter said sadly. “Y’know, I’ve been thinking about that. We only know what the Prophet says about Incommodo? Who’s the man in person? Before he took center stage, he was a lone voice asking for a stricter policy in Hogwarts. The second Phoenix and Potter send exchange students and Incommodo notes they should have asked the Education Ministry first, they turned the whole issue upside down. I wish we could ask him in person and get his view across.”

Albus did not answer too quickly because Scorpius looked thoughtful for just a second before shaking his head, “My family has a long standing history with that man. And I don’t think Al likes him too much either.”

Yeah,” Albus recalled. “He came to my place personally to blackmail my dad and he’s allied with Soto. Need I say more?”

Walter shook his head and said no more of the subject. The three started their homework instead, speaking only for notes or questions. After having completed his own homework, Walter threw his scroll over to Albus’ bed. “Paraphrase my conclusion and that should satisfy Era.”

“Anyways, how’d you find Seth?” Scorpius asked casually, readying his bed as Riley came up tiredly and threw himself in bed wordlessly.

Albus told Scorpius how the conversation went, minus only what was said about Soto. But as Albus spoke of Seth, the boy and his mystery once more entered his mind. So, as Albus went to bed that night, thought drifting to Seth and Soto’s relationship with him, an idea occurred to him. He really had trouble understanding this boy. What was his game? All of a sudden, it felt like Albus was once more trying to understand Mark’s motives back in second year. Seth was very difficult to second guess. Wait… that was it… Mark. The one boy who knew what was happening. He could understand Seth and Albus could tell him without compromising the letters between him and Soto.

And while Albus slept, far away in London, almost underground in a dim room, was a papery, yellow-skinned man in a dark, blood-red cloak. He sat down staring out a window with yellow eyes. A sole accomplice behind him, a beautiful blonde woman with an upturned smile reported to him, “Soto is in mountains off Hogsmeade. It seems he’s seen to the latest developments. You may no longer be welcome within the Ministry.”

“He has betrayed me,” Incommodo said slowly. Incommodo nodded slowly, processing this slowly and thoughtfully. Then, he got up and turned to the woman, “Orgella,” he said in a deathly wispy voice. “Prepare my brooms.”

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