Chapter 17 Riley’s Secret

The Hogwarts Hurricane

Chapter 17: Riley’s Secret

Goblins Rebel: The Threat of Looming War
Early yesterday morning, new developments arose in the Skeeter Scandal concerning exchange students in Hogwarts School. Positive that secret letters were sent between Galadral Phoenix and Harry Potter, Incommodo demanded access to their vaults where such letters might have been hidden to keep from the public as has happened in the past.

Rita previously accused the Minister, Head of the International Magical Cooperation Department, Head of Aurors, and the Headmaster of Hogwarts of sneaking exchange students in to Hogwarts. Her accusation was directed off the Minister and focused on Harry Potter; however, when it came to light that Harry Potter had prior knowledge of this.

Incommodo insists secret letters exist, raising speculation he has gone senile among his peers in the Ministry. Incommodo denied those allegation and regarded them as baseless attacks “in an attempt to discredit my credibility.” He went on to order Ministry forces to Gringotts to place the bank under siege.

“This siege will last until the Goblins agree to let me in,” Mors said drastically in a statement last night. “They may accompany me if they like, but I intend to find out myself if letters were sent or not. If they fail to do so, I accuse them of hiding something… possibly working with the conspirators.”

Incommodo did not keep criticism to the Goblins though, but lashed out at none other than Otto Blackberry, longtime political rival. “You say you’re hiding nothing, but Skeeter, though exaggerating or not, does not come from thin air. All theories, speculations, even false slanders have a basis in truth. We don’t need evidence. We know you’re guilty.”

Headmaster Phoenix accused Incommodo, Head of the Educational Department of “interfering in matters of International Magical Cooperation when his duty is to the Ministry and safeguarding the policy of non-interference.” Incommodo dismissed this statement within seconds; however, saying he would have his job if he found that letters were indeed sent.

The Goblins responded by shutting the bank and firing all witch and wizard workers within. Doors were shut and windows boarded and blocked with anti-Wizard enchantments, the Goblins refusing to comment until “Incommodo stops acting nasty and he is sacked from the Ministry.”

Rita has been largely silent concerning the conspiracy she created, leading Head of the Department for the regulation and Control of Magical Creatures Hermione G. Weasley of speculating that she may be feeling guilty of the “potential trouble she caused.”

The Minister remained silent throughout the scandal thus far but this only served to increase Incommodo’s suspicions that he too was involved. Minister Cauldwell’s office denied any comment when the Daily Prophet went to press and when Mrs. Ginny Potter was called for an interview, she stormed out of the Ministry, refusing to comment until they “got a grip on reality.”

Incommodo previously had… etc…

Albus Potter crumbled up the newspaper in his hand and threw it away, folding his arms in a huff. Scorpius took a little bit of amusement at it. Walter was on his other side, staying quiet as Albus read it.

The dynamics of their relationship had returned to normal since the fallout the week before. In fact, everything was better than it was before. Scorpius and Albus were more respectful around each other than before and Scorpius for a wonder ceased his verbal attacks on Gryffindors. The air was no longer tense as the three of them had reached an unspoken agreement to never speak of that fallout again.

What they also decided not to mention was the hug that Scorpius quickly found out about from Rose. Albus was privately angry with her for talking about it with Scorpius but she had asked both of them why they still refused to speak with Mark; for though they hugged, as Scorpius predicted, they did not become friends and they did not even go on speaking terms. They left off at the mutual agreement not to fight any longer and kept it there. For a week, the agreement seemed t stick. They did not fight.

However, Scorpius quickly became friends with Mark, and Mark was prompt in befriending Scorpius and Walter. He knew the twins disapproved, and Mark didn’t want to spite them again, so he talked with them only during the breaks in between lessons. He even shared with Scorpius some tips in lessons in getting spells right and as a testament to Mark’s good grades, it shot Scorpius up as well.

Carelessly, Scorpius said speculatively, “I’m sure he means well. How’d it be if he actually turned out to be protecting us? Maybe Riley’s an assassin or something.”

“Yeah, right, and I’m the reincarnation of a snake,” Albus spat back bitterly. Mark wasn’t doing this to get Albus back and in reality if this had been the previous year, the two might have befriended each other. How, there was too much bitterness between them and the two preferred not to speak.

March arrived, and with spring time, it also brought Laura’s annual hounding of Mark Wallader. Laura Creevey followed close beside Mark soon after he made up with Alex and Eric. It used to be normal to see Mark with the twins always, now it was a snowball’s chance in hell that Laura would ever leave Mark alone.

Albus never knew why Laura hounded Mark even from the beginning of their first year. It seemed she was familiar with him, but for the life of him, Albus did not understand what could’ve been so good about Mark that got Laura infatuated with him. Sometimes, and Albus may have been mistaking his own feelings, he was even a little bitter that she had eyes only for Mark. It just annoyed him that this girl was so infatuated with a boy who never hesitated to give all, even her at times the cold shoulder and she refused to open her eyes to everyone else around her.

Adam looked solemn one day in the middle of March. He seemed unusually quiet and this started when Riley asked him for an empty ketchup bottle. Adam moved closer to Albus and bent his head closer as if to share something and said, “I have something… you need to know.”

“What is it?” Albus asked curiously, catching Scorpius’ attention as well.

Walter was watching from across the table and put his head in hopefully to hear what he had to say. Adam shook his head with a significant glance at Riley before saying “I’ll go to the Common room now. Leave the table in two minute and I meet you there with Carl and Ben in the classroom unused.”

He leapt up and rushed off, giving one nervous glance at Riley before leaving. Albus and Scorpius stared after in surprise and Walter was aghast, “Does this include me?” he asked casually.

In five minutes, they rushed off to an unused Potions classroom from Professor Snape’s days and there they met Adam. Behind him stood Carl and Ben, both looking as though they did not belong. Adam looked solemn, but Carl looked confused and puzzled. Carl was the first to speak though, “Adam has something he wants to tell you in secret. He thinks you’ll understand more.”

“Look,” Adam wasted no time whatsoever. It seemed he’s always wanted to say this. “Riley, eh… I do not know the word in English but he… well…” and Adam started talking in rapid Arabic Carl only just got. It didn’t help the puzzlement though. If anything, it only increased. Carl did not translate. He looked at Albus and Scorpius and asked “Is your Strawberry friend ok?”

“Who, Riley?” Walter laughed. “It’s Blackberry.”

“Whatever. Apparently, he’s been avoiding contact with everyone since the beginning of the year. Is that true?”

“Well, yeah, but that’s because of Mark.”

“Yes, Mark knows,” Adam said excitedly. “Why he does not tell you? If he is friend he should tell.”

“Did he ever tell you?” Albus asked both Scorpius and Walter. Both of them shook their heads. More puzzled than ever, Carl turned to Adam again, who told Carl in slower Arabic. Carl shrugged and gave Ben a significant look. Ben was completely flabbergasted. Carl shook his head and looked at Albus, “He says that… oh Merlin, I don’t believe this- ok, you’re friend is a vampire.”

Now, it was Albus’ turn to be confused. He gaped at Adam, wondering if this was a trick. Now in English, Adam said, “Your friend… is a vampire. I know! I know! He is too white and his teeth and his black hair, and try to avoid everyone. He is not nice to you. He is mean to me and he knows I know so he told me to keep my mouth shut.”

“H-How do you know?” Scorpius stuttered despite Adam’s explanation. “I mean, he could just have white skin, we all do. And his teeth are fine. I’ve seen smiles from him before and… wait, and who cares about his hair.”

“Vampire’s hair does not grow,” Adam said pleadingly.

“Ah, yes I know this one,” Ben said happily. “Hair follicles work when you’re living. They die when you do.”

“But vampires aren’t exactly dead,” Walter said pointedly. “I mean, they can mate with humans and…”

“How can they?” Adam demanded.

“Ever heard of Lorcan d’Eath?” Carl asked with a small smirk. “Been a singer for ages. He’s half vampire. Hagrid tells us that half vampires’ hair grows until it is cut. Then it dies.”

“Ok, so is he a vampire or half vampire or… what?” Scorpius asked, trying to remain calm throughout what Albus believed to be a ridiculous conversation.

“But this is impossible, I think you’re jumping to conclusions,” Walter shrugged. “Phoenix wouldn’t let a vampire come to Hogwarts. That’s too dangerous.”

Ah, but Phoenix did warn about controversial appointments, a voice reminded Albus in his ear.

No, Rose’s voice said reasonably. Too conclusive. He comes from Dumbledore and would never jeopardize Hogwarts’ safety. It’s too unlikely. There are too many unknown for it to be conclusive.

Albus didn’t forget the attempted warning. Adam begged him to check him out. The common room was still half full when Albus and his friends moved up to bed. When Albus refused, Adam clicked his tongue impatiently, and went over to Riley’s sleeping form. Surely if Riley was a vampire, he would need a coffin?

Adam muttered a spell to himself, and pointed it at a sleeping Riley. Life detecting spell. Adam moved it over Riley slowly and had Albus feel vibrations on the wand. Waist… vibration; Hair… light vibration; Skin… none; Mouth… none. Adam was explaining, “Carl tells me that your Creature teacher says half vampires are more lively around waist and hair. But their mouth is not life that is why they need blood and the skin never changes. Always the same.”

“Ok, fine, so he’s half dead but… I mean…” Albus did not know what to say. It was too unlikely. How could Riley be a vampire? Was he smuggled in there. Did Phoenix not know? Incommodo and Otto. Was this connected? Was this the real motivation Incommodo had to oppose Riley’s father? Was that why Mark threatened Riley? He was defending you.

Has it ever crossed your mind that maybe Mark isn’t the bad guy?

Rose had challenged him there. Even she knew something was up. Something the twins knew about Otto. Adam turned to Albus and gulped, “This is not my business but someone in the Ministry is his father, so he is half. But it is dangerous having someone like… well… him.”

“Look, well… erm…” Albus cast around for an excuse as they went back to the Common room. It was emptier now and very few people were left. Surely Phoenix knew. He knew Riley for a year. He was never a danger to anyone. No, it was not Mark defending anyone. It was just meddling in someone else’s business and possibly making him more dangerous. He had never hurt anyone. At least, not that Albus knew of.

Even an hour after Adam left up to bed, Albus stayed sitting. Scorpius was silent, mouth shut tight as if opening it would expel the contents of his stomach. Albus was deep in thought. Ok, so Adam made his point. Riley was probably a vampire. But, so what? Wasn’t Teddy’s father a Werewolf? Some could argue they were just as dangerous. Why did Albus have to worry? It was just a simple need to tolerate what Riley was. He was always friendly before.

If only he could remember what his father had told him about Otto. He replayed the conversation with his father in his head, trying to come to the part where he asked about Otto. He, Albus had deduced something then. The narrowing of the eyes.

Because Harry had narrows his eyes while Albus was questioning him, Albus could tell he knew something. If Harry knew about Otto and worked with him to bring five students into Hogwarts, he could be trusted. Even if Harry did not know anything, Otto still helped to do something good. They could both be trusted and it was just like Mark to meddle anyway.

Scorpius fell asleep on the couch, apparently not as trusting. Albus could not blame him. He himself had trouble sleeping. It was completely rational to trust him but it went against his better judgment. He had to distrust him. It was late at night, near midnight when the last of the first years went to bed. Taking advantage of the weekend, perhaps.

Among the last to be in the Common room was Lorcan Scamander. Lorcan’s blonde hair was easily seen, even in the dark. Albus leapt up and rushed towards him. The boy looked up in surprise and almost made a run for it.

“Lorcan, just who I need!” Albus almost cried. He tried to keep his voice down. “Adam’s telling me the most ridiculous theory. About Riley. Thinks he’s a vampire. But, it’s ridiculous, right? Right?” he pressed.

Lorcan looked down, and his eyes, though not meeting Albus’, confirmed it. Albus widened his own, and shook Lorcan, as if interrogating him. He shook the child, and Lorcan was saying shakily, “Hey, leave me alone!”

“It’s not true!”

“It’s so true,” Lorcan said as if it wasn’t even a problem. “Of course Riley is a vampire. Did you just realize? You notice he hardly needs to blink. He retains calmness, and even gets nervous around breakfast when garlic is present.”

“But he breathes, he eats and drinks normally,” Albus argued desperately. “Vampires only need blood.”

“He’s a half-vampire,” Lorcan corrected. “They don’t only need blood. They just have a strong preference for it at the cost of garlic.” And as an afterthought, Lorcan added, “Never liked garlic anyway.”

At that moment, words that Riley once said came rushing back to Albus in a flash. Words not forgotten, but not remembered either until then. Words that Albus put in the back of his mind as an extra fact about his old friend. Words that though they were only two, now had significance.

“I’m motherless.”

How quickly had Riley waved that conversation aside? He never talked about his family before. All he knew was that his dad was Head of the International Magical Cooperation, he had a little brother, and his mum was not present. But what else? Why? He looked Lorcan in the eyes, gulped, and said, “What happens when a human mother gives birth to a half-vampire?”

Dreading the answer, Albus waited and listened. Lorcan answered after a moments’ pause, “Depends. First or second birth? First birth, she might barely live. Second birth, she dies.”

“Does a half vampire need blood?”

Albus already guessed the answer, and sure enough, Lorcan answered what Albus didn’t want to hear, “Yes, but it’s easier to hold back. He feeds off blood in himself and the blood he took from his mother when inside the womb. I- I think it’s ok as long as he doesn’t smell blood.” Albus backed away, and Lorcan went on, “Vampires aren’t half bad creatures, Al. They’re actually pretty cool if you read on them. Some live in communities and work together to hunt animals or… or maybe human murderers as a bonus. I think there is one in the forest, actually. They are quite fascinating.”

Lorcan bade goodnight and Albus stood where he was. He wanted to believe Lorcan. The way he spoke of just about any creature, any could be pets. He was a little like Hagrid in that way. Slowly, as if his mind and soul were telling him to go back, he shakily walked back up to his dormitory, deciding to trust Riley. He’d tell Scorpius the next day.

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