Chapter 24 A Kept Promise

The Hogwarts Hurricane

Chapter 24: A Kept Promise

Ignorance in Hogwarts by Rita Skeeter:
Galadral Phoenix insists on ignoring what we say. For the past few months, following an explicit threat by Hermione Weasley I’ve been working in secret to expose Galadral Phoenix with a select team to show the conspiracy of the exchange students for what they are.

Incommodo has been firing public shots at Otto Blackberry and he’s been ignored. I’ve been sending letters to Galadral Phoenix and he ignored them all. Reasons for ignoring me are unknown but subject to questioning and ridicule until both come clean with their deeds.

Professor Sorrow of the Ancient Runes division in Hogwarts finally admitted that Phoenix had secret communications as she herself was a go-between during communications with Harry Potter. Finally, of all of us, the goblins showed sense and released their prisoners including the abducted Ministry worker. Incommodo has donated five hundred galleons from his own vault and released all Goblin prisoners in exchange for looking inside Phoenix’s vault. What we found there was exactly as thought.

This journalist has finally brought peace to this divided world, destroying any misperception of prejudiced on my part. Just preservation as vampires are indeed a threat to our community.

The Daily Prophet publishes below my article the letters sent between Phoenix, Potter, and Blackberry concerning the secretive nature of the exchange students. Reasons are only hinted and remain unknown and Phoenix should be sacked or placed on probation until the bottom of this conspiracy is reached.

On top of this, Phoenix hides from us the newly discovered fact that vampires reside within these walls. This sparks outrage among the Wizarding community as secrets have been kept from all of us. These secrets when involving deaths threats as the letters below show and vampires as proven weeks ago are dangerous and should never have been kept secret.

As time passes, more letters will be released. Only time will tell what happens to Phoenix and his job but consider this a triumphant exposure orchestrated by yours truly.

Below the article was indeed two letters allegedly by Phoenix and Harry. As much as it pained Albus to say, the copied letters were written exactly in Harry’s handwriting and he recognized Phoenix’s tidy and official scrawl.

Potter,

I have confirmation from the American Minister. If the Egyptians trust you as I’m sure they will, we will have two confirmations. I believe Otto is working with the French and Chinese. I myself will travel to Australia in the coming weeks to ensure the Minister sends his son over as well. Their protection should be guaranteed. Until confirmation, treat this as a hopeful.

Galadral Phoenix

Otto,

Pass this message on to Phoenix whilst he is in Australia. I heard recently that you managed to gain the trust of the French and Chinese Ministers to send their children over for protection. I can confirm that the Egyptian will be coming. With four confirmed, it all rides on Phoenix’s success. Threats made against the children of Ministers for Magic cannot be taken lightly.

Harry Potter

Albus put the newspaper aside after he finished reading it aloud to Rose. The next day had dawned and students had refused to leave the hospital wing. Mark was still unconscious and the twins were recovering in the next bed. They too heard the news and they exchanged looks of what seemed like apprehension and possibly guilt.

Laura herself was in the hospital wing and so was James. Albus was not entirely sure, but he gathered from Malcolm and Walter that the duel between him and Malcolm resumed when they had awoken and Malcolm had dealt enough damage to him to send him to the hospital. Nigel was the one who had saved James from the lake and the squid itself set him back down.

Professor Creevey had come in at one point to see how they were doing, but left within a minute to talk to the former Death Eater he had captured. Albus did not dare ask him what was wrong. Five minutes after Creevey left, to Albus’ enormous relief and the twin’s cries of relief, Mark’s eyes had opened. Laura looked over hopefully. Mark sat up against the pillows, eyes still half closed but definitely awake.

Then, to their surprise, Laura had rushed over and embraced him tightly, eyes watery over worry, sorrow, and relief. Mark did not return the hug but he did acknowledge it by muttering her name, tone unfathomable. “Laura.” She responded by crying into his shoulder, tightening her grip on him. Mark was either too tired or he simply did not have the heart to tell her to get off of him. He allowed it to happen.

“Well, look who’s joined the world of the living at last,” James said from his own bed. “Have to say, we were quite worried that you’d bite th- oh!” James exclaimed in surprise and he was not the only one. Slowly, maybe absent-mindedly Mark returned the hug. Laura was still crying heavily into his shoulders, clutching his sides and stroking his messy blonde hair.

Mark, as he hugged her back, said quietly, “I’m ok, Laura. Don’t worry.”

“Out, the boy needs rest,” Madam Pomfrey demanded from behind a curtain. “Everyone out, now!”

“No, don’t,” Mark muttered as loudly as he could. It was the first sign he was stable and was able to respond. “I want them here.”

Madam Pomfrey walked up and demanded Laura off him. She let go reluctantly and Pomfrey checked his head. She shook her head and said, “Lay down then. Sitting up jeopardizes your recovery.”

Mark lay down as told but sit back up as soon as Madam Pomfrey left into her office. “What’s new?” he asked lowly. “How’re the exchange students? Are they still here?”

No one said anything in response except Albus who handed him the newspaper article to read. Mark had no expression as his eyes slowly went to the bottom of the page. When he put the paper aside, he sighed. Albus started the conversation. “I don’t know what to say. Dad was caught. After the fiasco… I doubt they’ll be able to stay much longer.”

“How long was I here?” Mark asked.

“About eighteen hours,” Laura answered immediately.

“It’s three in the morning now,” James said from his bed. “Scorps is asleep but he wanted us to wake him when…”

“Yeah, I’m on it,” Albus said reluctantly and he turned to walk out. Just as he opened the door; however, Mark cleared his throat and called as loudly as he could, “Al… uh…” he stopped. One of these days, Al is gonna end up saving your life or something. These words had haunted Mark ever since Albus had done the deed. He did not think it was ever truly happen. Admittedly, neither did Harry but he had guessed right. He was right about Albus after all. He might be in Slytherin, but he’s still a Gryffindor.

“Thank you, Al,” Mark said slowly and in a low voice. “Really, I…” Mark stopped. He gulped back tears and took a deep breath. “I…” his voice trailed off, at a loss for words. Not caring whether people were watching or not, Albus rushed over and just like Laura did, (in fact she looked away), he hugged him tightly. Tears were leaking out silently and Albus had to dry them before breaking off of him so he could appear as composed as possible. Nobody knew how broken Albus was inside. He had thought Mark would die. He had to admit, as much as he hated Mark, he could not bare to see him die.

As he walked out, he dried his eyes again as firmly as possible. Just in time too. As he reached the bottom landing of the tower housing the hospital wing he saw Alexis Ackerly. She beamed at the sight of him and walked over. Albus nodded in greeting. Alexis was not fooled by the fake composure Albus held, though. She grinned, “So, made friends with Mark, have we?”

“What’re you doing up at this hour?” Albus asked her.

“Oh,” Alexis went red and smiled, “Worried about you. Been wondering when you’d come out. But please answer my question, Al. Mark?”

“How’re the exchange students?” Albus asked, preferring to leave the question in the air. She knew the answer to that already, after all and she followed him through the corridors to the Entrance hall on his way to the dungeons.

“Adam and Jimmy are in the dormitories,” Alexis counted off. “Ben was forbidden to leave and Ellie and Hai are talking to Riley. They’ll be leaving at the end of the year, I think. But stop evading my question, Al.”

“What happened to Rookwood?” Albus asked.

“Professor Creevey yelled himself hoarse at him,” Alexis answered. “Sounded really, really upset too. Like he had been crying or something. Might’ve thrown him out of a window if there had been one. But… Mark, Al?”

“He’s fine,” Albus shrugged off. “Is Rookwood in prison, then?”

“On his way there,” Alexis shrugged. “Goblins will have their way with him now. And please don’t evade my question again.”

“Yes, Alexis, I’m friends with Mark,” Albus rolled his eyes. He hated admitting it too, but after saving his life, Albus could no longer ignore Mark or treat him as the root of all evil. He stopped at the Entrance hall. He was standing in the exact spot the whole conflagration started. “Well, I promised I’d wake Scorps up when Mark woke up, so…”

“I’ll wait here,” Alexis agreed.

Albus was really only five minutes. Scorpius had leapt out of bed in his pajamas and followed Albus out, rubbing his eyes. As promised Alexis was waiting where he left her. The three of them made to walk up when just then, the doors opened wide. Albus jumped, half expecting it to be Soto ready to exact revenge. But it was none other than the men Albus most wanted to see. Professor Phoenix led Harry Potter in and Dennis Creevey tagged along at the back, looking pleased with himself. It seemed he really did get what he wanted with Rookwood.

Tagging along behind her father and going red from what was probably the cold night was Lily and close beside her arm tightly around her as if to keep her warm was Hugo.

“Albus,” Harry exclaimed.

“Way past your curfew, Mr. Potter,” Phoenix said calmly.

“M-M-M-M-Mr. Potter,” Scorpius stammered. “Uh… greetings. H-Hello Mr. Potter.”

Alexis simply bowed in respect, “Hi, Mr. Potter.”

“Want to introduce me, Al?” Harry asked calmly.

“Yeah, this is Alexis Ackerly,” Albus said lowly. “My friend in Ravenclaw. Alexis, this is my… erm… dad.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Potter,” Alexis said lowly.

Once they walked into the heated castle, Hugo and Lily broke off and rushed to hug Albus. “Al,” Hugo said, pleased and surprised to see his cousin.

“I missed you, Al,” Lily said miserably, hugging him tightly. As she hugged him, she (on Harry’s orders probably) slipped a folded paper into his pockets.

“I’ll leave you all here,” Phoenix announced. “I have words to discuss with Professor Creevey. You can make your way to the hospital, can you not?”

“I can,” Harry said agreeably. “Escort me, Al. And tell me what happened.”

It was not enjoyable, mainly because Alexis and Hugo and Lily were listening to the whole tale too. Harry nodded at Albus’ explanation, not questioning anything in it as Albus told him of the fight between James and Malcolm over Riley, how he had ran over to the forest to take refuge in Hagrid’s hut and how they were all captured, Adam and Jimmy summoned over and captured, and how they saw a bunch of men and women following Soto deep within the forest (Lily shrieked at this.) Albus then concluded it with how Creevey, (“Professor Creevey, Al,”) had attacked out of nowhere and how Phoenix arrived later backed by teachers and strongly negotiated for their safety without going for a battle.

He finished just as they reached the hospital wing and Alexis hurried over to push the door open for them all politely. Harry looked pleased enough as he walked in, Albus at his heels. Alexis and Scorpius followed in after. Mark seemed surprised enough to see Harry but Scorpius spoke first. “Welcome back, Mark. Alright, mate?”

“Kind of,” Mark shrugged. “Mr. Potter.”

“Mark,” Harry acknowledged. He strode over and felt Mark’s head.

Mark laid back down again and allowed Harry to check him. He muttered responses to Harry’s questions of where it hurt the most and why he fought to begin with. “Thought maybe… if I- I”-

“We wanted to hold them off till the teachers came,” Eric answered on Mark’s behalf. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have caught that one guy Creevey took down.”

“Rookwood,” Harry recalled. “Can’t say I blame Professor Creevey, really. But… don’t talk to him about it. What I’m interested in is how Mark survived as long as he did when someone like Rookwood fought him. Is Mark that good or is he just lucky?”

The hospital wing was silent. Alexis listened in genuine curiosity, Lily looked from Mark to Albus with wonder and Hugo stepped back, looking like he did not belong there. Scorpius shifted nervously with his feet and Mark sighed in defeat. Like it gave Albus pain to have to admit that Mark was a friend, Mark hated to admit that he was alive because of the boy he spent nearly a year and a half despising. He took a breath and said, “Al.”

All eyes turned to him, Albus. Just for a second, Albus almost regretted saving Mark. Alex and Eric stared in surprise, faces etched in shock. Alex himself even stuttered, “I- I didn’t notice. I didn’t know Mark was in- Al?”

“Al pulled me down from the… the curse,” Mark admitted.

The room was filled with a mixture of tension and surprise. Albus even had a feeling that Madam Pomfrey was listening behind a curtain. Lily and Hugo gazed at Albus in wonder and awe, Lily wrapping her arms around him before rushing to Mark. Eric looked away and Hugo quietly gave Albus a clap on the hand as if to say well done, cuz.

Finally, after what seemed like an hour, Harry spoke. “Well, well, well. Did you hear that, Lils? Remember what I said over the holiday? Al saved Mark’s life. So, Mark, what’ve we learned?”

“That Al is nosy and doesn’t know how to let people die in peace?” Mark guessed with half humor and sarcasm.

“Close enough,” Harry shrugged. “Now, as for Phoenix. I must say, I’m rather impressed with his actions. Al, you were up most of the time for this. Any commentary on how he acted?”

Albus hesitated. “He was… amazing. No, ok, he was good. I mean…” he shifted uncomfortably. All eyes were on him and even Alex and Eric exchanged looks as if they disagreed with the statement. “Well, what am I supposed to say?” he challenged. When Eric shrugged, Albus went on. “He intimidated them by numbers, freed the students, kept them safe and unscratched, and he kept everyone safe. I mean, we’re all alive aren’t we? Wouldn’t we be dead if- if he didn’t handle it right? Let’s give him some credit.”

“He gave us trouble last summer,” Alex reminded.

“Well, he’s not perfect,” Albus argued. “But he played hardball. He got the exchange students back and captured Rookwood. That’s a good thing and must I remind you that he’s the one who”-

“Yeah, we know,” Eric interrupted.

“Phoenix was good, dad,” Albus said, turning on his father next. “I put in a good word for him if- if it helps.”

Harry nodded slowly, seemingly deep in thought. “It helps a great deal. The reason why I wanted an eye on Phoenix this year was because of last summer. I did not expect him to go rogue. Instead, he honored our alliance. The reason why I picked Phoenix for the post in the first place was because of his strength and commitment. Loyal to Dumbledore, I knew full well Hogwarts would remain in good hands in times like these. He detected weakness in the barriers surrounding Hogwarts, he ventured to the forest once told by Malfoy here, and pushed the evil doers back. This accomplished more than you know. Now, we have an idea who our enemies are including,” he looked over at Mark, “the person who killed your parents.”

“Who, Soto?” Mark asked, confused.

“No, but someone related,” Harry said slowly, once again treading cautiously on the subject. Albus could tell based on how Harry talked months ago through the fire. He was avoiding spilling too much. “Anyways,” he cleared his throat. “I will do everything I can to make sure he stays in power within this castle. Unlike what Skeeter would like you to believe, I still wield the influence I require to keep all of us in our posts and I intend to… use it.”

Just then, the door burst open and in walked Dennis Creevey. He looked around carefully, rested his eyes on Mark and saw Laura stroking his hair, still sitting closely beside him. He sighed in relief, seeing his two kids in the same room. “Alright, Wallader?”

“Yes, thank you,” Mark said politely. “Thank you, for… you know…”

“My job,” Creevey waved aside.

“Nigel, a drink please,” James said from his bed.

Then, there came a shock to not only Albus, but Scorpius Mark and even James. Professor Creevey looked over at Nigel in apparent hurt and said, “Why do you use your middle name?” he asked. “I’ve asked you countless time, please, use your first name.”

Nigel stopped half way to the water jug and went red. Laura looked at Nigel with an almost accusatory look. Albus never saw that kind of look on her babyish face before. She was siding with her father there, whatever the issue was. Albus swore to find out if the answer did not come immediately, but it did.

“Mark, your hair is dirty,” Laura said timidly. “Mind if I”-

“Oh, go on,” Mark said resignedly as Laura ran into the curtain where Pomfrey was to fetch a bucket of water and a cloth.

Professor Creevey ignored them. “What’s your name?” he challenged Nigel. “What was the name I gave you, and why? Why would I give you a name that means so much to me, and you for that matter and you won’t even use it? No, you act like it doesn’t exist. Who here knows your full name? Your true name? Because I have something to tell you, your grandfather was named Nigel. Alas, your name remains as it always was.”

“I always call him by his real name,” Laura assured her father as she walked out. “But he never listens to me.”

Nigel gave a questioning James the water he requested. James nodded, “Thanks, Nigel.”

Mark lay his head on Laura’s lap and she started cleaning his hair. Laura had eyes for Nigel though, who went red at James’ statement. Professor Creevey also looked over. Nigel looked down and once more resigned himself s he said in what seemed like a recitation, “My name is Colin Creevey and I died for my friends and family twenty years ago and I’ll do it again now.”

Professor Creevey nodded in satisfaction and bowed out, giving a quick kiss to Laura on his way. James stared at Nigel. “Why didn’t you tell me, mate? You could have said something. I would’ve understood.”

“Then understand that I preferred wars remained out of our group,” he admitted. “But he’s right. My name is Colin N. Creevey.”

“They seem positively comfortable with each other,” Harry commented quietly to Albus. He was referring it seemed not to James and Nigel but to Mark and Laura. Albus watched as Laura quietly cleaned Mark’s blonde hair, taking great care to keep it straight and neat. For once then, Albus could see a glimpse of her as an adult. For once, she was acting like one. She was acting a lot more mature for her age. Harry smirked and turned to Albus. “Anything else?”

“The letters in the Prophet,” Albus recalled.

Very few people were paying attention so only Scorpius, Rose and Alexis were listening to Harry on this. Lily and Hugo were around Mark’s bed. Harry smiled guiltily and said, “They managed to push their way across. I would not be surprised if by the end of this year, the exchange students will have to go home. But… their opponents have made themselves known and with themselves, their own views. We now know precisely who the enemies are and we can act accordingly. With the Goblin trouble over thanks to… Skeeter, we can operate in peace.”

And as Harry finished, so it seemed had Laura. She finished drying his hair and stared at Mark longingly, like she wanted to give something more but couldn’t bring herself to do it. She laid his head down on the pillows once more and after internal battle within herself over whether to take it a step further, (“I think she wants to kiss him,” Harry whispered) she left with a nod at Mark who nodded gratefully. She went to take a seat beside Nigel and fell asleep there.

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