The Hogwarts Hurricane
Chapter 25: Home Sweet Home
Harry left the hospital wing just as dawn broke. After all the sleeping Albus had done waiting for Mark to wait up, Albus was not tired. He could not say the same thing for his sister and young cousin though. They seemed to be feigning being wide awake for Albus’ benefit but he could tell by the dark shadows under their eyes that they had not slept for a while. Harry had probably alerted her before she even got to sleep. How Hugo came to be there, Albus was not sure but he guessed he was staying the night as he often begged to do.
Lily gave Albus one last hug goodbye, Hugo smacked his hand, and Harry pat his shoulder. “Well, Lils, it’s way past your bedtime. Hugo, consider yourself invited for the day. Odds are you’ll spend it sleeping anyhow. Al, I’ll be leaving now.”
“Blimey we’re up all night,” Hugo yawned. “The Easter holidays just started. Why can’t Al come with us?”
“I think what all of them need now is rest and relaxation,” Harry advised. “After a battle with someone who very well could be secretly tied with Incommodo, I prefer they stay safe inside the castle. You’ll see him in a couple of months anyway. So, say your goodbyes.”
“We want him to come,” Lily whined. “Why can’t Al rest and relax at home?”
“Mr. Potter!” Mark said suddenly, making Laura and Harry jump. He seemed breathless. “It was him, wasn’t it? Incommodo? He has the power and the resources and plenty to gain. He-he killed my parents, didn’t he?”
Silence. Albus did not notice his own breath being held in place. Alex and Eric were looking at Harry and Mark significantly, Scorpius was gazing at Harry in interest, Alexis in admiration. Then, after what had to be a minute, Harry responded as truthfully as he could, “I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. Don’t bother yourself more than you need to, Mark.”
“I won’t,” Mark promised grumpily. “I just wanted to know. Mr. Potter, if you ever find out… you will tell me, won’t you?”
This time, Harry answered immediately and without hesitation, “Yes, of course I will.”
The door opened once again and this time it was Professor Redgrow. She was red-faced and her hair messy as if she just woke up. She came up with a gratified step and to Albus’ surprise and James’ delight she stopped in front of James’ bed and fixed him with a beady eye. “Mr. Potter, the favor you have done for this school is astronomical. Exposing a disease like that. I would have liked to give you an Award for Special Services to the School but the headmaster felt that was too far. So, I opted to grant you special status. You’re on your way to becoming prefect, Mr. Potter. You’ve done well.”
“Thank you Professor Redgrow,” James said solemnly. Neither Albus nor Harry were fooled. They could sense the triumph in James’ voice. Even Mark in his state understood what James was feeling. Redgrow left and Mark sighed in defeat and laid back down. He did not want James to succeed in this.
Harry moved on, “Hugo, Lily, your goodbyes.” But just as Hugo and Lily resigned themselves, Harry considered and looked at Albus thoughtfully. He walked up slowly and whispered, “Follow us to the Three Broomsticks. Don’t tell Mark, he’ll probably be upset he can’t join us considering his condition.”
Lightening up, Albus nodded hopefully and waved a tired goodbye to Scorpius and Alexis who decided to stay where they were. Professor Phoenix awaited at the bottom of the stairs, nodding at Harry. “I am guessing you take your leave now.”
“Albus is coming with me to Hogsmeade,” Harry told him. “I’ll have him back tomorrow as soon as he has spent enough time with his very worried sister and cousin and has rested up.”
“Understood,” Phoenix said, and he saluted. “I’ll patrol the perimeter of the forest. I have Era within scouting the forest for any signs of activity or camps. We’ll report any findings to you.”
“Understood, Professor,” Harry nodded calmly. “I doubt they stayed within the forest though. Most likely they left.”
“Not by now,” Phoenix disagreed. “Unless they left in a big rush which will most surely leave behind clues. I am confident we will find something. From Potter’s anecdote to me, I understand they had a large following in the forest. That is why Era has… friends inside that will most certainly help her in this regard.”
“Very well, Al, Lily, Hugo, follow me,” Harry said kindly. “Time to walk out of the messy business that is politics.”
Hugo and Lily tagged along tiredly after Harry. The lightening sky was promising a cloudy day and for the first time, Albus was going to walk through the gates and along the path towards Hogsmeade village. He did not think he’d be allowed in until third year. He also had to admit Hugo and Lily were lucky too. However tired they were, they would definitely keep themselves awake for this. They had three years to go before being allowed in again.
Fifteen minutes later, Harry sat Albus, Hugo and Lily down at a table in the pub below the inn. The tables scattered around were more or less empty except for a couple sitting further in, tucked away in a corner. Hugo nodded and rested his head on his hands and Harry smiled and said, “So, what shall I treat you with? Hot chocolate to keep you all awake.”
“I want Butterbeer,” Hugo yawned.
“And get smacked by your mum, I don’t think so,” Harry shook his head. “I’ll fetch hot coco.”
They were seated around he table, Lily making sure to seat herself beside her brother. Once Harry left, Hugo lifted his head and rubbed his eyes. He had never stayed up so late before but Albus could tell he was fighting very hard to stay awake to make the most of his time with his cousins, let alone in Hogsmeade.
“Appleby Arrows won, Al,” Hugo grinned tiredly making Albus smile. “170-140 against the Foulmouth Falcons.”
“Falmouth,” Harry corrected, coming back. “And it was 160-150,” he went on, smiling a bit. He too ordered himself hot chocolate, most probably so the kids would not feel too small.
“What was forgotten?” Albus asked.
“Yeah, them, I forgot one goal wasn’t counted,” Hugo shrugged.
“Yeah, he was asleep during the penalty shot the Falcons scored,” Harry laughed, ruffling Hugo’s hair. “Probably why he managed to stay up this long, I might add. Drink up, Hugo.”
Hugo drank the chocolate with such a large gulp, he choked as the glass dropped on the floor and shattered. Harry burst out laughing as the barmaid Madam Rosmerta ran up with her wand out. She smiled and waved Hugo’s apologies aside. “I’ll just you lemonade, shall I?”
“Boiling,” he said, wide awake and consoling a shocked and worried Lily who appeared to have snapped awake from a short nap neither of them noticed. “Who knew hot chocolate was so hot anyways?” he demanded, rubbing his throat which was still burning from the gulp and choke he suffered simultaneously. “Merlin, never again. Thank you,” he added as Rosmerta kindly gave him a small plastic cup of iced lemonade.
As Hugo took a quick icy drink, Lily yawned and mid-yawn, she took all of them by surprise by bursting into tears. Harry looked up in alert and Albus caught her as he dropped her head into his chest. He expected this but he thought it would occur a little closer to the end.
“Lily,” Harry said calmly.
“Lily,” Hugo said worriedly, moving over quickly and patting her back consolingly. Hugo looked like he wanted to hold her very badly but that was Albus’ job. He crossed his arms bitterly and sat back, watching her concernedly.
Lily was quick and stopped herself sobbing though. She quickly recovered and took a deep breath. “Sorry, Al. Sorry, daddy.”
Hugo seized his chance and reached out to put an arm tightly around her. Albus understood the situation. He could get was that Lily was so worried about her older brother and it burst out of her before she took back control. That much was clear. He could guess Hugo’s mindset pretty easily too. The love between Hugo and Lily rivaled that of Mark and the twins. It was genuine and they were very close.
However, he did not understand Harry’s small smirk as Hugo took her tightly and they slowly fell asleep on each other, effectively making Harry and Albus the only two still conscious. Then, Harry talked, “He acts strong, but when I informed your mother of what happened, she hastened to come. Before she could get dressed, it turned out Hugo had overheard as he was coming down for a midnight snack. He overheard, woke Lily up and raised hell. Hugo was blubbering like a baby so he could see you, and Lily was the strong one. Now, it’s the other way around.”
Albus looked at his younger sister due for Hogwarts next year and his insides hurt. Wait till she had to deal with the pain Albus went through. And Scorpius… he knew he’d try to get Lily into Slytherin? No, that would be too complicated. As much as he loved the idea, if Lily went into Slytherin, that would complicate the relationship he had with Scorpius, the recently made relationship with Mark, and Hugo (who was almost guaranteed to make Gryffindor in Albus’ point of view) would be upset with all of them. He was after all close with Lily.
Both of us were probably better off in Gryffindor.
These words would never leave Albus. The reality was that he was a Slytherin. He had a good, strong friendship with Scorpius Malfoy and a solid relationship with Alexis Ackerly who never, not once left his side throughout the year. Lily’s first friend was Hugo and in tough times, he would stick with her the whole way. Of that, Albus was certain. That thought, it was better both he and Scorpius allowed things to run their course without interference.
The last he saw of Hugo and Lily was of them waving goodbye, Hugo giving him a tight hug before Lily sniffed again as if holding back more tears. She hugged Albus next. “Sorry, Al. Just,” she gasped back more tears. “Just tell Mark I’m g-g-glad he’s ok.”
“Sure,” Albus said slowly, thinking of Lily’s surprising words in his mind.
Harry opened the gates and Phoenix met him on the other side. Beside him was Professors Era and Creevey. She looked alert, “Potter, they left in a hurry. The camp was filled with clothes and wand holders, some bags of Weasley’s armor used in the second war, and an invisibility cloak. Secrecy Sensors and Dark detectors were scattered all over the place. They may have aided them in penetrating the barriers. That and very powerful magic.”
“Death Eater magic,” Creevey added, Rookwood entering his mind again. At least he was in Azkaban. “Add that to possible inside help, and I think we have our weakness sorted out.”
“It won’t happen again,” Phoenix assured.
“Let’s hope not,” Harry muttered, taking Lily and Hugo by the arms. “Good day, Al. Get some sleep and for goodness’ sake, keep everyone out of trouble. You’re the only sane one in there.”
One crack and Harry disappeared. Era and Creevey left too, Era for the forest and Creevey for the school. Phoenix nodded at Albus, said “Come along,” and walked on, following Creevey. “I am aware of your brother’s… revelation concerning your friend Blackberry.”
“Yeah, a vampire, I know,” Albus said lowly, thinking of Era. Was he safe? Would he be expelled? Phoenix’s opinion was made clear in his next statement. “Redgrow was over the moon for him and hastened to make him prefect in fifth year. Pushed for special award for services even. If Era had not defended against it, it might well have happened. One thing for sure, this boy can get away with anything now seeing as how Redgrow is more than willing to overlook anything he does in the future. I; however, am furious. I took a hundred points from Gryffindor when I saw him in private just now. Just so he knows… and you know… that I still stand for justice in this school.” They reached the doors and as Phoenix pulled it open and pointed him to the dungeons, he added, “Take care of Mr. Wallader. You’re the only one I trust now. Well, you and the Wallaby twins.”
That was it. All that was left now was for Albus to read the note and possibly spend the Easter holidays thinking about it. He just knew it would concern Mark in some way.
At first, I did not know too much about this type. That was before I had two boys. I could see firsthand just how it fosters. You and James used to be very close. As we know, things went downhill when he pulled a rather vicious prank on you when you were only three. Gave you an unhealthy phobia. Things have more or less cooled down now and your differences in houses and social standing have set you at odds once again. Don’t fret. Rivalry is a large part of brotherly love, which brings me to Mark Wallader. A brother closer to your age and someone who though comes from different standing and different morals than you, can be attentive and friendly if you give him the time of day. I have observed that he needs you as much as you need him. It’s time for you to put aside your enmity in favor of a healthy sibling rivalry but mutual trust between the two of you. I supposed the day was blessed when you wrote to me, asking if we could help him. It changed the dynamics of your relationship with him. From enmity we found sibling rivalry and from sibling rivalry was born a true developing friendship.
P.s. Show Mark this note.
Easter passed and Albus still did not show Mark the note. In fact, Albus was wrong when he thought he was friends with Mark. Mark was avoiding him once again but for totally different reasons. For the whole holiday, Mark spent his days in the dormitory. The twins brought him food and water and he stayed secluded, speaking only with Alex. Laura, who had taken a lot of time to nurse him was distraught. Nigel, or Colin as he was sometimes called was consoling her to no avail.
Only when classes started did Mark venture out. That was when he did something Albus never expected from him. Lysander Scamander brought him over to give one statement to Albus, Scorpius, Adam, Walter and even Riley who had returned from a long absence during the holidays.
“I wanted to say… I’m sorry for what I did last year, and this year. I was mean, and I deliberately tried getting you in trouble. I also ask that you forgive Alex and Eric as well, and just… turn over a new leaf with me.”
“What, be friends?” Albus asked, widening his eyes. His heart leapt. Finally.
Mark sighed, shook his head, and said, “Al, you and I are way too different, and we’d probably never get along well, but we should at least be on speaking terms. It doesn’t feel right anymore.”
“Fine, I accept,” Albus shrugged, taking what he could get. If Mark wanted speaking terms with Albus, the whole package was included. Albus could see, now, within sight, friendship was arriving. Just then, Mark took Albus by the hand and pulled him into an embrace, hugging tightly. A little surprised at the sudden gesture, Albus returned the hug. “What took you so long?”
“I just don’t like Slytherins, and it’s Walter and Scorpius who keep trying to get me to talk to you. I decided to get them off my back.” Mark got up, and walked back to his own circle of friends.
Lysander smirked and beamed at Albus, “Good luck.”
Alex also eyed Albus heavily. It seemed he had been meaning to say something. He smiled sadly and looked down, not wanting to meet Albus’ eyes. “I’m indebted to you, Al, for saving Mark’s life,” Alex said in a low voice.
“I was- completely wrong about you,” Alex muttered as if he did not want to be heard but he nonetheless reached a tentative hand out and pat Albus’ shoulder lightly. “Just… take care, ok?” Albus only nodded in surprise and Alex finished, “And if there’s anything you need, ask.”
“Thank you,” Albus muttered gratefully. “I”-
Albus went silent. He did not feel it before, but with everyone thanking him or expressing happiness or awe that he managed to save Mark’s life; Hugo’s awestruck face, Lily’s look of wonder, Harry’s pleased look, Laura’s grateful attitude and now even Alex, who personally came up and expressed gratitude that Mark was safe.
He could truly have died if Albus had not been there. If he had run off with Scorpius and left, Mark would have been killed. And the alternative filled Albus with fear. Mark Wallader, the boy looking at him at that second, could have been buried and resting forever in a gravesite somewhere. It would be the twins crying over his lifeless body. Or, they too would have been killed. Deciding the alternative was too depressing to consider, Albus tried pushing it out.
Standing hopefully behind Albus, looking very much like she was hoping for something too, stood Laura Creevey. Her brother Nigel walked his way into the Great hall so Laura was standing alone. Mark was gazing at her steadily. Indeed, he owed her something. The tension had flared once again in different form. Mark smiled and said, “Thanks, Laura, for being a cool girl.” Laura nodded slowly, perhaps a little disappointed when Mark continued, “Want to hang out with us?”
Laura almost jumped up in anticipation and said hurriedly, “Uh, yeah, sure.”
And they all turned to leave. That was when Albus reached into his pocket and ran up. Ignoring Scorpius’ questions, he stuffed it in Mark’s robe pocket and nodded one last time before running back to stand beside his own friends. Mark walked away. The last he saw of Mark that day before classes was him smilingly reading the small note Harry left and folding it up neatly before putting it in a folder.
The year was uneventful for the rest of the school. Classes were held, assignments were given, homework was completed and projects were done. There was one where Mark and Albus had once again worked together like they once did in first year. Professor Era was so pleased at the two of them for working together so well for once that she gave them the best marks in the class and fifty points apiece for Gryffindor and Slytherin.
The confrontation with Soto had one blessing it seemed. It changed the way everyone looked at each other. Mark and Albus were finally, in all senses of the word, friends. Not only that, but Mark started talking to Laura a little more. There were rumors going around that Mark had even kissed her on the cheek but Nigel, Laura, Walter, and Mark himself were quick to quash them. Who would have thought that one action by Lysander Scamander led to so many changes in the dynamics between the students of Gryffindor and Slytherin?