Chapter 15 Within the Flames

The Hogwarts Hurricane

Chapter 15: Within the Flames

The Ravenclaw Common room was mostly blue with shelves upon shelves of books and study desks. The Common room was like a small library in itself and at first sight, made Albus feel uncomfortable. He did not like books. He himself was on a large blue sofa and slowly, his memories returned to him. Mark had left him sitting alone and Albus, still miserable at what had happened and with Mark’s sudden kindness still in mind, left to find Alexis. Alexis had taken him to her Common room to rest. I’m the only Ravenclaw who stayed so… you’re completely free.

“Hi, Al,” Alexis said from beside him. She was sitting on his right, reading a book. “Rested?”

“Why’re you doing this?” Albus muttered. He could not understand anyone’s kindness anymore. Scorpius had abandoned him, Walter was on his side, Mark had been so kind after over a year of giving him hell… he hardly knew Alexis and she was acting like a sister to him. What was the point?

“You’re welcome,” she said sweetly and sarcastically.

Albus felt as if he had led a life of crime and murder and had woken up to someone being kind to him for the first time in decades. He took in Alexis’ appearance. She was wearing a hot purple with blue jeans making her look almost boyish. “Alexis, you don’t have to.”

“I won’t bother next time,” Alexis shrugged. “Next time you come in to the classroom half asleep and in desperate need of attention, I’ll just walk off and lead you for dead, shall I?”

“Made your point,” Albus muttered, sitting up straight. “Ok, I gave up. Mark was right.”

“Don’t you just hate it when you’re wrong?” Alexis sighed. She still smiled widely and her pigtails were let down, revealing the full length of her dark brown hair. It fell to just below her shoulder.

“Depends on the cost,” Albus said lowly. “Mark spent over a year trying to prove to me he was the better friend and I was better off in Gryffindor. Next thing I know, my best friend lies to me and runs off with someone else. I’m left here with no one but Mark who was… too kind. He- he listened to my problems, we were actually on speaking terms and he- he proved it. He didn’t rub it in. He didn’t gloat. He just listened.”

“Too kind?” Alexis repeated.

Something had dawned on Albus then. A split occurred within him as he contemplated Mark’s possible motive. “Did he- do you think Mark orchestrated this? Asked… well”-

“How on earth could he do that?” Alexis laughed.

“He’s friends with Walter,” Albus told her, more willing to talk now that he was up and no longer tired. “He might’ve somehow manipulated Walter to invite Scorpius over.”

“Walter’s really dense if he allowed Mark that kind of obvious manipulation, especially if you found them out right before they left,” Alexis observed. “Plus, Mark too is really unhappy. I caught him yesterday in an empty classroom on the first floor, Room 100 crying his eyes out. He doesn’t have any friends right now, not even the twins. He’s in the same boat as you are. I think he was just happy to have someone to talk to.”

“So, you think he’s sincere?” Albus asked in shock.

“Absolutely not,” Alexis laughed as if that was the stupidest assumption in the world. “Him? No, he still has that motive and he won’t give up till he’s done it. But… he might try another angle.”

“Like…”

“I dunno, I’m no genius,” Alexis shrugged. “Maybe he’ll appeal directly to his own Head of House and go to Phoenix with her… maybe- maybe he’ll befriend you or something… I really have no clue. I too am quite dumbfounded by Mark’s actions. I say ignore him. Something you’ve been failing to do, I might add.”

Albus and Alexis remained where they were making small talk (though admittedly they had little to talk about and they were therefore bored.) The holidays ended the next week. Scorpius returned with an uncomfortable wave towards Albus which Albus returned with a mere nod. Scorpius had tried to strike talk with Albus and get in his good looks again. Albus was receptive but did not strike the same kind of conversation and he often stayed on the responsive.

Discomfort with Scorpius was not as much as Mark would have liked though. At least Scorpius cooled down on the Riley front which only worked against Mark Wallader. Scorpius asked Riley quite politely to pass the porridge one morning, and Riley wordlessly complied. Albus was sensing a rekindling of the old friendship. If only he was not so angry at Scorpius. And there was Scorpius trying to act as if his deception had never happened. Albus had other plans with Scorpius and it involved Mark directly. If he could just ask a favor…

Mark was sitting in his usual place where Albus found him last, near Gryffindor tower sitting all alone. The twins were still trying hard to avoid him. Albus took a hiding place behind a wall at a corner and listened in on Scorpius’ conversation. “Well, well, well, Mark sitting alone. Mister ‘I-have-friends-and-you-don’t’ all alone and friendless. How he explains this one, I cannot imagine.”

“Shut up, Scorpy,” Mark muttered. “What do you want here anyways?”

“Scorpy?” Scorpius laughed, for once not taking offense at the name used for him. “That’s new. Listen, Al just wanted me to tell you that you’re welcome at the Slytherin table anytime… if you’re looking for friends… not that I agree with him,” he added as an afterthought. As Mark raised his eyebrows in surprise, Scorpius continued on, “If you want my advice, I’d tell you to go ahead. I think Al’s got something up his sleeve.”

Before Scorpius could walk away then, Mark gave a wide smile and nodded, “Ok, but speaking of Al, could you deliver a message for me? Tell him to quit hiding behind walls and suits of armors. I’m not blind!”

Mark was the first to go before Scorpius came to Albus in his hiding place, smirking. “Well, he found you out. You could have let me talk to him alone. I’m starting to get the feeling you don’t trust me.”

“Well whose fault is that, I wonder,” Albus spat before he could stop himself.

Thankfully, Scorpius held his tongue but they kept quiet from there to the Common room. Scorpius threw himself on an armchair and folded his arms. Albus continued to pace around back and forth in front of the fireplace for two minutes before Scorpius sighed and finally broke the silence. “C’mon Al. We’d better get some homework done.”

Albus and Scorpius were sitting on the rug finishing the last of their homework they left for the last minute. As Albus looked up at the dying embers of the fireplace, the next sentence for his essay popped into his head. He looked down.

The transfiguration of animals into objects is a complex piece of magic. However, Rutherd believes differently, insisting there lies a rather simple way of performing the spell. The effectiveness of the spell is disputed; however, among scholars in the Spell-casting field who believe that spells must be performed the original way in order to proceed to more advanced stages. Nonverbal spells, (Ch. 43) are an exception to the rule obviously as Rutherd points out but…

…The spell to transform birds into goblets for example can be performed as follows…

“Ok, ok, so we got different ways of doing spells. Rutherd believes in simple casting and… what’s-his-name believes Rutherd is a lunatic. Ah, we need Rosie for this.”

“Yeah, we’ll ask what she thinks and get back to- to… ACK!”

“What?” Albus jumped. “ACK!”

Albus stared in surprise at the fireplace. After the surprise and shock left him, his eyes accepted what he saw in the grate. To his pleasant surprise, Harry Potter appeared in the fireplace, grinning all over. “Albus.”

“Dad? What’s up?”

“I’ll be going,” Scorpius said, going red.

“No, no, stay, I want you to hear this,” Harry called him back. “Al, I wanted to talk to you.”

“I’m sorry for the summer if”-

“Forget it Scorps, don’t remind me,” Harry waved aside.

“Scorpius,” he corrected.

“I’m sorry, Scorpius,” Harry apologized. “Al, you got Aunt Hermione’s letter over the holidays, I presume?”

“Yes.”

“I appeared here hoping to catch you alone so I can give an update,” Harry began. “I was considering sending an owl- but it might be intercepted considering very… recent developments.”

“Wait a sec,” Scorpius interrupted apologetically. “I’m sorry, but intercepted? Uh… we haven’t had records of interception since… forever.”

Harry smirked a little, “Well, your parents are in the Ministry. Tell me what you know of interception, Scorpius.”

Scorpius flushed in surprise. Lecturing was Rose’s domain, but if Harry asked him… “Firstly, you must have a wand and all interception magic is watched by the Ministry. So, every time the owl is intercepted, it is either by the Ministry”-

“Or…”

“Or an extremely powerful Wizard who found a way around the Ministry,” Scorpius shrugged. “And considering that interception is illegal, it would be a Dark Wizard.”

“And you need a wand,” Harry built on. “How do you Apparate in Hogwarts, Scorpius?”

“Can’t, impossible,” Scorpius shrugged, getting a raised eye from Albus. “Rose told me.”

“Very good,” Harry smirked. “Now, House-elves have a brand of magic that allows them to disappear within Hogwarts. Wizards do not. Others have ways of intercepting owls without wands. Take Centaurs for example…”

“Arrows?”

“Precisely, Al, arrows.”

“So, they might be intercepting”-

“No, that was an example. We have established that not only Wizards have that power so… which other beings produce magic? Beings we’ve had problems with for centuries?”

“Goblins?” Albus sleuthed.

“Very good,” Harry grinned. “And these are our developments.”

“Problems with the Goblins?” Scorpius asked concernedly.

“Yes, and we’ll get to that. Al, Hermione is growing very concerned about Skeeter. Spying on everyone and everything. She’s been laying low still, but I’m positive she’s finding something to write about. I’m sure you’re next. So, I am asking that you keep a low profile. She’s one witch who might’ve found ways to intercept owls.”

“How’d she find out about our conversation last”-

“Wait a sec, you did have a conversation?” Scorpius widened his eyes in shock. “I thought you let Adam in to shut me and Riles up!”

“Oh… you didn’t tell Scorpius?”

“Uh, I lied,” Albus said apologetically. “Sorry, I thought it was supposed to be secret.”

“Can’t keep a secret from every last living soul, Al,” Harry shrugged. “Anyways, now Al has learned his lesson concerning secrets, about Skeeter; believe half the things you read from that woman. She’s dangerous and I highly advise you to keep whatever opinions or beliefs you may have to yourself when outside your dormitory and make sure there are no… bugs around, literally. Careful. I also have to strictly advise you to watch over Adam. Make sure he stays inside as frequently as possible and see to it he is entertained. If you can, befriend the other students as well. Make sure they’re all happy. Let me deal with the Ministry.”

“Right.”

“Now, the goblins,” Harry said, straitening himself in the fireplace. “Al, I have half the mind to look over Gringotts myself but Uncle Bill was sacked yesterday. Him and every other witch and wizard working in Gringotts. They are very angry.”

“What about?” Scorpius asked.

“Well, you’ll get the whole story eventually when the Ministry decides to publish it,” Harry said hesitantly. “But, a leak won’t hurt. The Goblins have refused entry of Wizards into some of their vaults.”

“Why would we?” Albus asked. “Are they our vaults or theirs?”

“Well, have you ever heard of Incommodo?”

“Yes,” Scorpius said at the same time that Albus shook his head.

“Incommodo is a very powerfully ranked Wizard both in skill with the wand and in influence within the Ministry. The man is over a hundred and still… decisive. He is leading an investigation into the allowing of foreign Wizards into Britain. Goblins may or may not possess letters previously sent between the different parties involved and bringing them in, basically me and Phoenix. Incommodo believes that we sent letters between each other with Otto Blackberry controlling the magical sensors. If we did, he assumes we hid them in our own vaults. Incommodo is trying to get his way in and the goblins are refusing.”

“So what?” Albus shrugged. “Did you do that?”

“That is classified information,” Harry smirked. “The Goblins refused and so Incommodo threatened to place the bank under siege if they do not comply with his demands. If the siege does not work, Incommodo may accuse them of working with the enemy. So, the situation deteriorated quickly and now Otto and I are working around the clock to calm this down and return Uncle Bill to his post. The Goblins are on the brink of shutting the bank completely though, and if that happens… a full finance issue will break out and… the Ministry will have no choice. A Goblin war will be on our hands.”

“Wow, enough Wizard wars and now we got a Goblin war?”

“Well, if the Goblins gear for war, it’s likely some Wizards will take their side because in all honestly, Incommodo’s paranoia did start this,” Harry told them seriously. “But the Goblins have the power to steal our money in the bank.”

“But why would they- I mean, can’t Wizards”-

“Of course we have power or they wouldn’t consider. They’d have closed the bank a while ago. It takes preparation on their part. But Goblins are no laughing matter. If a war breaks out… many, many people will die. The last Goblin rebellion saw the deaths of about ten percent of the Wizarding population and equal numbers for the Goblins too. Wars with them can be brutal and bloody. And quite frankly, with people getting mad at Incommodo, a three-way war between the Ministry, Goblins, and Incommodo will probably make the war with Voldemort look like a picnic.”

“But, you can help it can’t you?” Albus asked, looking for reassurance.

“Hopefully,” Harry yawned. “Anyways, Phoenix? How has he been acting?”

Albus and Scorpius looked at each other in confusion. Phoenix? Was he doing something wrong again? Albus remembered Phoenix’s summer rant but he had put that aside and decided to forget about it as an isolated incident concerning Phoenix’s overall character. “Well- he’s…”

“Allow me to elaborate,” Harry grinned. “Has he been getting involved in anything concerning exchange students? What is his relationship with them?”

“Sidelines, really,” Scorpius said tentatively. “He- he hardly does anything, why?”

“Is he causing trouble, dad?” Albus asked curiously, the summer forcing itself back on him. “I remember what he said to you last summer.”

“Wait, what?” Scorpius started.

“Tell you later,” Albus muttered.

“Phoenix is a wonderful Headmaster, Al,” Harry reassured. “Whatever he said about the exchange students or may say or do in the future, he has Hogwarts’ best interests at heart. I- you know, I’m positive we’ll both be very grateful one day that he runs this school. He owes me a favor and that said, he’ll do everything he can to make sure our way is pushed through, no matter how long it takes.”

“But”- Something didn’t add up.

“So long as his means is within his having a good reputation,” Harry added as an afterthought. “That’s why I’m curious to see how he acts. As long as he stays on the side, everything is ok.”

“I- I see,” Albus said slowly, pondering over Harry’s words of assurance. “Wait… dad!” Albus stopped. He had remembered something Rose had told him once. He knows something about Otto that threatens his position and decided to hold it over Riley’s head. It was time to see if Mark really did have Albus’ best interests at heart or if he had his own interests and used Albus as a mere pawn. If anyone knew about Riley, Otto or anyone related to them, it was Harry.

“Dad, it’s about Otto,” Albus said quickly. Ignoring Scorpius’ surprised look and Harry’s questioning look, Albus kept his eyes focused. I could see it in Rosie’s eyes. Always shifting over to your hiding place. Mark was right about one thing. And his voice spoke in his ear, almost as if guiding him. The eyes give it all away. If they narrow, he knows something about Otto he is not willing to share. Cursing himself for thinking like Mark, Albus went on. “I think there’s something about him.”

“Do you?”

“Well… the Wallaby twins seem to know something about him that they think they could use to… ‘kill two birds with one stone.’ They were talking about it in Diagon when we were… at the ice cream shop and… well Mark has been bothering Riley about something and it seems to be enough to shut him up. He’s been withdrawn since the beginning of the year and Mark isn’t saying anything.”

Harry listened to Albus’ story interestedly, nodding his head thoughtfully. “Wallaby twins… Mark… and Riley. Very interesting. What do you think is the matter, Albus?”

“Well…” Albus’ thoughts trailed away. He could not really put his finger on it or he would not have asked. How did Harry expect him to answer? Was he evading? Well, Rose did have a good guess and eavesdropping on Riley almost gave it away. “We know what you are.” Even further, Mark had spoken in defense of Albus that day and threatened him. “I’ll turn you in to the Ministry. I’m sure Malfoy’s grandfather would love to get his hands on you… and your father for that matter.”

Mark knew. “Well, Mark knows something about it. I overheard him telling Riley ‘we know what you are.’ It was something that Lucius Malfoy would want Blackberry for too so… it’s something big and I’m just… curious.”

Harry had a response ready and it was so well cited, Albus was almost certain Aunt Hermione was behind him dictating what to say. “Remember an article written by Skeeter a couple of months ago? She speculated Otto was a Death Eater and cited Sturgis Podmore, a former Order member. I can say this, and as much as it pains me to say, she was right. Perhaps Otto is up to something? You’ve given me something to think about.”

No doubt Harry thought this was said to appease him. Scorpius raised an eyebrow and said, “That’s it? A Death Eater? So was my grandfather and he’s higher than… well, you.”

That was when Albus caught it. The narrowing of the eyes and eventually looked down, refusing to meet anyone’s. It only happened for a split second but Albus caught it before Harry made a recovery. “Well, your grandfather isn’t up to something, is he?”

Scorpius was silenced and Mark’s voice spoke again, press it. “But it still seems small. Is there evidence suggesting Otto is up to something? Because if there is, Skeeter didn’t bother to cite it correctly. What is with Otto that Mark feels like attacking Riley over, seeming to think he’ll be expelled or sent to prison giving pride to Lucius Malfoy… and if Otto was a Death Eater (Albus prided himself here) why would Malfoy want to get his hands on him? If they were best buddies. What aren’t you telling me?”

Harry widened his eyes and Albus could tell he was impressed. Scorpius gaped open-mouthed at him in shock, (and offense?) “Very intuitive. Hmmm… well, Al, I am honestly stumped on both fronts. I’m afraid I do not know what Mark is talking about. I assure you, if I did and it was something reasonably dangerous, I would tell you. I recommend a trip to the Headmaster if you are concerned. Anyways,” Harry yawned. “It’s late. Wanna say goodnight? Bye, Scorpius, Albus… good night,” Harry nodded one last time.

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