The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 21: A Bad Seed
Harry Potter Resigns
In a surprise announcement last night to the Daily Prophet, Harry ‘The Boy Who Lived’ Potter, Head of Aurors and hero of the first and second wars against the Dark Lord has resigned. Following his resignation, he added that the reigns of power of the Auror Department would be transferred to his partner Ronald Weasley, effective immediately.
Though it was not immediately clear as to why Mr. Potter felt compelled to resign and turn power over to Mr. Weasley, this move was greeted by enthusiasm by many in the Ministry and out. Head of Education Mors Incommodo condoned the action, promising a speedy recovery from the Ministry paralysis that took place over the Christmas.
According to an anonymous source unauthorized to speak on the matter, Mr. Potter resigned after having received a letter from many different Ministry Heads, including those with Minister Cauldwell, demanding his resignation. While the same may be said for Professor Phoenix of Hogwarts and Otto Blackberry of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, Harry Potter stepped down on behalf of everyone, ending the paralysis.
Though Incommodo greeted such an action with enthusiasm, some responded with raised eyebrows and even some hard words for the former hero. Rita Skeeter, celebrated author and journalist, criticized the move calling Harry a coward and a weakling and calling on Mr. Weasley to fire Harry from the Department. She also pointed out that though he resigned as head, he did not resign his job, so he remains and as a good friend to Mr. Weasley, is likely he will be pulling the strings from behind.
Though Blackberry and Phoenix did not respond to comment, this move is expected to see the end of a long, hard political crisis over exchange students and goblin trouble that erupted last year.
So, this was it. Incommodo and Soto had finally won. Harry had resigned. And though the Prophet did not seem to have all the information, it was Skeeter who pushed for this in the first place. For the first time, Albus could appreciate just how much Aunt Hermione hated that woman.
Still, Albus did have his own problems; unkind laughter and enmity resulting from him and Scorpius losing over two hundred points. Albus heard loads of stories, mainly from his Uncle Ron, that his dad too lost a load of points from Gryffindor. What made Albus feel down was that with Harry, it was an enemy to begin with who got him in trouble. This time, it was Albus’ own cousin. To top it all, it took three to lose a hundred and fifty points. This time, it took two to lose two hundred, counting Lorcan’s feat, Slytherin lost over three hundred points. It must’ve broken a record.
Wherever Albus and Scorpius went, students would either point and laugh, or stare at them unkindly. Sometimes, Slytherin students would form two lines on either ends of the hall the two walked down, and would yell ‘boo’ as if at the neighborhood rat, at the passing boys. At least Scorpius could take his anger out on someone. Rose.
Scorpius was so furious with Rose now it looked more and more like it did with Ron and Hermione, as Harry had put it. But it seemed unlikely they’d ever make up. They were so bitter towards one another. Albus too was furious with her, and refused to talk to her after lessons. It had to do her some good, because she had no one to recapitulate to anymore.
Every time Rose tried to talk to Albus, Scorpius intervened, and yelled at her, effectively scaring her away. Albus would then endure an hour of Scorpius berating her and making fun of her. Albus couldn’t blame Scorpius though, for it was because of Rose that Albus was hated wherever he went now. He had to hand it to her. She effectively and single-handedly made Albus and Scorpius the laughing stock of the school.
Exactly how much he was laughed at became apparent a day after the second attempt. He was sitting at the Great Hall for lunch when an owl dropped an ominous-looking red letter. He went pale at the sight of it. Abandoning all forks and knives, he whipped his wand out, and pointed it at the letter, a look of fear on his face. “Silencio. Silencio!”
The letter began to smoke. Interested students began looking around. Scorpius seemed at a loss, but as the letter begun to explode, two students acted. Scorpius and Mark whipped their wands out. Eric seemed to be trying to stop Mark, but the boy jumped out of reach, and in accidental unison with Scorpius, yelled, “Muffliato.”
But Professor Era jumped up from her seat, wand out, and yelled, “Curtus Muffliato!”
For a minute, it seemed the attempt was doomed to failure but Mark openly defied Era and so, apparently did Lorcan. The two of them yelled just in the nick of time “Muffliato Maxima!”
Era’s counter-curse was rendered ineffective and the howler yelled in Ginny’s voice. With no one able to hear, Albus could bare the yelling but he felt terrible all the same. Scorpius after all, could still hear. Albus sank lower and lower, not daring to look at anyone in the school. He knew he was being stared at regardless of what was heard.
IF I HEAR YOU’VE GONE INTO THE FORBIDDEN FOREST ONE MORE TIME, I WILL MARCH INTO THE SCHOOL AND DRAG YOU BACK HOME! WAIT TILL I GET MY HANDS ON YOU! I WILL GROUND YOU FOR A MONTH! I WILL PERSONALLY MAKE SURE YOU PAY FOR WHAT YOU TRIED TO DO.
FIRST YOU VENTURE INTO KNOCKTURN ALLEY! YOU WENT INTO A BOOKSHOP AND IMMERSED YOURSELF IN SOMETHING TABOO ENOUGH! NOW YOU VENTURE INTO THE FORBIDDEN FOREST? HOW DARE YOU! EVERY YEAR YOU DO SOMETHING THAT SIMPLY ISN’T YOU!
I TOLD YOU MANY, MANY TIMES THE FORBIDDEN FOREST IS FORBIDDEN AND DANGEROUS! YOU CONTINUE TO DISOBEY YOUR MOTHER! THIS IS THE SECOND TIME YOU ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE LED ASTRAY, AND IF I FIND YOU ANYWHERE NEAR THE FORBIDDEN FOREST OR KNOCKTURN ALLEY AGAIN, I’LL MARCH INSIDE AND DRAG YOU HOME!
ROSE DID THE RIGHT THING. AT LEAST SOMEONE HAS HER PRIORITIES RIGHT! THIS IS A DIRECT ORDER. NO FORBIDDEN FOREST, OR I WILL FORBID YOU FROM EVER TALKING TO SCORPIUS AGAIN! IF YOU DISOBEY THIS ORDER, YOU ARE IN TROUBLE!
The hall was quiet. Albus was looking down, head barely above the table. The curse lifted after Ginny was done and confusion reigned. Still, everyone started laughing at the look of embarrassment on Albus’ face. Only a precious few like Hugo and Lily remained silent.
Lorcan was also angry. He kept his promise and wrote to his mum about the article. It was time the Quibbler fought the Daily Prophet. He furiously wrote the letter to Luna, Lysander dictating what to write and even Era looking over his shoulder. From what Albus heard, Era was going to give her account to the Quibbler and Riley was going to give his side.
At the mention of his name in the howler which Albus tried very hard to forget about, Scorpius went red and turned to Albus with a small grin on his face, “Am I that bad?”
“Shut it!” Albus yelled.
Scorpius vowed to win the next Quidditch game to regain the points they lost, but Albus’ hopes were down. January went on, and another Quidditch game was upon them. Slytherin was facing Ravenclaw. Scorpius wasn’t eating that day. According to his logic, if he could win them a decisive catch, the Slytherins would forget about everything, and celebrate.
As they got up to walk off to the pitch, Albus was approached by the most unlikely person to approach him. Alex Wallaby. Alex motioned with his head for Scorpius to go, and then said, “Al. Meet me near the forest by Hagrid’s after the game. I have to talk to you.”
Leaving Albus confused, Alex walked off to commentate the game as he always did. The wintry air greeted them as Albus followed Philip Horton out and mounted his broom. The sunlight did not look promising, as it would obviously disappear behind the clouds eventually.
“The game begins now with Slytherin, looking to regain their lost points and Ravenclaw hoping to make a comeback after losing abysmally to Gryffindor in the last match. Master Cantharis releases the Quaffle, and the game begins!”
Albus flew in with high spirits and hopes. Scorpius flew around the pitch, in the thick of the action. Slytherin started possession first, and Lorcan raced up the pitch. He passed it to Albus who threw it to Malcolm.
Immediately, the Ravenclaw Chasers Keller Jones and Hestia Dobber cornered Malcolm. Seeing defeat, he threw it back to Lorcan who passed it to Albus once more, who positioned himself to face the Keeper.
“Potter faces the Keeper fairly early in the game… he shoots… HE SCORES! Ten-zero to Slytherin. Taking an early lead, the Slytherin players”-
Albus, grinning, went ahead to steal it from Keller. Keller maneuvered out of the way, and kicked Lorcan’s broom off course. Malcolm swerved out of the way of Keller’s tackle, and zoomed forward to claim the Quaffle.
“As Mold races up the pitch after a rather rough tussle, Scorpius Malfoy spots something Ravenclaw Seeker, Karla DeGaulle missed,” Alex announced enthusiastically. “He races for the Snitch, Karla way behind him. Well, I suppose it’s over, unless the snitch manages to disappear. And- oh, look at that, Albus Potter has scored a goal. Twenty-zero to Slytherin, and… WHOA!” Alex yelped.
A chaser had zoomed in from the side. In her hand was the red Quaffle the keeper had passed to her. She grinned at Scorpius as she managed to block his catching. The snitch was gone.
“Alexis Ackerly, reserve turned full-time Chaser blocks off Malfoy and she passes the Quaffle to Keller Jones,” Alex called. “Oh, and Albus Potter intercepts the passing, Alexis is not deterred.”
Albus had to hand it to her. She was pretty. Very pretty. Her brown hair was split into pigtails on either side and her face was exactly Albus’ size. In her he sensed a certain yet familiar determination. He could tell she was protective and right now her protection was focused on the Quaffle in her hand. Though they were friends on the ground, in the air it seemed she understood they were mortal enemies.
Alexis zoomed up to Albus and rolled over on her broom, maneuvering to try and get the Quaffle. Albus did a barrel-roll away but Alexis grabbed on to his broom with one hand and flipped over to it, knocking the Quaffle out of Albus’ hand. Alex was yelling about the tussle in midair as Keller and Lorcan flew over to aid their respective teammates. Lorcan kicked Keller’s broom off course and punched the Quaffle out of Alexis’ hands. Albus caught it.
It was turning into a fight on Albus’ broom as both he and Alexis were on it. They struggled in midair over the Quaffle until Alexis decided that Lorcan and Albus were too much. She flipped back to her broom and did a barrel-roll, kicking Lorcan’s broom away just as Keller came back. Albus lost the Quaffle to her and she zoomed away, Albus giving chase.
“That,” Alex began, apparently trying to choose his words carefully. “Was… the cutest fight I’ve ever seen over a Quaffle in my life! Was that ok, Professor? It was cute wasn’t it?”
Redgrow didn’t seem to need to respond; however, as she seized the megaphone and yelled, “Malfoy has seen the snitch.”
“Right! Off the sexual tension between Alexis and Albus, Scorpius Malfoy takes chase and Potter steals the Quaffle from his girlfriend!”
“Ten points from Gryffindor, Wallaby!” Redgrow yelled angrily.
“Did I say girlfriend, I meant hated nemesis!”
“Twenty points from Gryffindor!”
“Professor, they say you’re biased towards Gryffindor,” Alex countered.
“Professor, sixty points? Please I-… I give up. Umm… Alexis steals the Quaffle back and zooms up like an expert. Potter seems to be having trouble. She shoots. She scores! Twenty-ten to Slytherin. Jennifer passes the ball to Malcolm Mold. Keller attacks from the side. The ball is in the danger zone for the Slytherins. Hestia steals it back. It’s gonna go in, it’s gonna… she saves it!”
The Slytherin team couldn’t get it far enough from their territory though. Hestia and Keller were blocking the Quaffle from ever being intercepted and soon Alexis caught it once again before throwing it up and doing a three-sixty degree turn on her broom, hitting straight into a hoop. “OH! Demonic equalizer! She beats Jennifer making it twenty-twenty to both teams. Alexis Ackerly and Albus Potter are stealing the game and…”
Scorpius grasped the snitch in his palm slowly, almost gracefully. Alex was yelling over the cheers, “Slytherin wins the game. One hundred and seventy points to twenty. Ravenclaw has been taking a rough beating this year, a step down from last where they nearly tied with Gryffindor for the cup.”
Albus landed. He looked around. The Slytherin players were nodding approvingly, and Jennifer landed beside Scorpius to pat him on the back and she shook Albus’ hand happily. “That was brilliant, Al,” Lorcan said happily. “Awesome fight up there.”
Albus ignored them though. He didn’t even walk with Scorpius to the Common room. He walked off toward Hagrid’s hut. Alex was to meet him there. Albus wondered if Hagrid was involved in this because whatever it was, it was denying him a party in the Slytherin Common room. He set his broom against a tree off the Forbidden Forest, and waited silently. He passed time by staring at the still-present silvery line passing through the forest. He felt it went right through it. Albus didn’t have to wait long though; a throat-clearing cough was heard and from behind a bush, the red-headed form of Alex Wallaby approached.
Alex walked over, and stood, leaning against a tree in front of Albus. He sighed, and said, “Al, listen, Eric and I talked, and well”- Alex stepped aside and behind him was his likeness. Eric stood there too, right beside his twin. Albus could tell them apart because Eric seemed to be more sour than Alex. And if that was not enough, it was Eric who started the talking, “I hate beating around the bush, so I’ll just get to the point. Abandon your friend. Get rid of that Scorpion.”
From confusion came shock. Albus gaped at them open-mouthed, “I don’t wanna talk to you.”
Alex shrugged, “Well, we’re talking, you do the listening”-
“I won’t listen either,” Albus said almost angrily.
“Are you that narrow-minded?” Alex asked, smirking.
“”Just face it, Al,” Eric said bitterly. “You tried denying it last year and it barely worked. This year, you get yourself in enough trouble with him to get a Howler. When are you gonna learn?”
“You liked Scorpius in our first year, but times changed now,” Alex said pointedly. “He’s changing, and so are you. At such a critical period of your life, in terms of education and personality shaping, you need to let go.”
“That’s bull” (Albus swore badly enough to make even Eric raise an eyebrow.) “And hang out with who? You? We’ve proved ourselves enough. If it’s not enough”-
“Reality check,” Eric recalled. “You proved yourself. Scorpius ran away. Now we’re all a little angry because Slytherin isn’t your true home!”
“You were afraid of Slytherin,” Alex reminded him. “Your family is in Gryffindor anyways. You should be too.”
“Who cares!” Albus snapped. “Friends look after each other and he’s defended me countless times.”
“He’s a bad seed, Al,” Eric yelled back. “He’s only going to turn on you one way or another.”
Here we go again, Albus said under his breath as Alex said the predicted words.
“That’s Slytherin house. You can learn the easy way, or the hard way. You guys never sacrifice yourselves for each other. Every man for himself. At least in Gryffindor, we’re all one. You don’t belong in Slytherin!”
“That’s why Rose got me in trouble,” Albus recalled sarcastically.
Eric went red in anger and fixed Albus with a furious stare. “You know what, Al? You are the worst person I know. I don’t even know what Mark sees in you. You’re so stubborn, narrow-minded, and… evil. You act all afraid of Slytherin but the second you’re sorted, it’s the best house in the school. You’re pathetic. I’m willing to bet you only saved Mark’s life to make yourself look good”-
Albus whipped his wand out, on the brink. Eric was quick too and Alex backed off, holding his hands up. But Albus was beside himself. The nerve… Eric suggesting Albus saved Mark for selfish reasons. He was hurt. As if Eric was the blind one. He refused to see that Albus loved Mark. As Mark’s foster brother, Albus was beginning to grow very attached to him… a Gryffindor.
Alex turned to Eric slowly and miraculously, for the first time in memory, said, “Eric, shut up.” Alex then stepped between them, beckoning them to put their wands down. “Al, let me say this. I, as a Gryffindor, consider you my friend. You are Mark’s brother, you saved his life, and therefore a family member of mine as far as I’m concerned. Mark argued his case for you and Scorps. I’m willing to accept you, but I don’t trust Scorpius. Not him, his house or his family. He has too much going against him. He ran away while you stayed behind to save Mark. We don’t trust him. Listen to me. I wish I hadn’t ignored you on the train that day. If I knew Scorpius was trying to turn you to Slytherin, I’d have intervened. If you were in our dorm, you’d be the happiest bloke in Hogwarts.”
Albus went red. Alex did have a point. If he was in Gryffindor, problems with Mark wouldn’t exist, Scorpius would be indifferent and he’d be on his brother’s side against Malcolm. Scorpius being so bad and aiming ultimately to betray Albus as if he was all bad and no good didn’t make sense.
“Look,” Albus said, calmer now. “We still know our limits and our ethics. I mean, neither of us like Malcolm, and Scorpius did his part. The teachers wouldn’t have showed up and saved all of us if it weren’t for him.”
“Oh, then why’re you on Malcolm’s team?” Eric asked snidely, wand still out.
“It’s Quidditch!” Albus said exasperatedly.
“On top of that, you went to Knockturn Alley with him summer before last,” Alex reminded. “And you got what you deserved from Aunt Ginny. What were you thinking? And now, the Forbidden Forest?”
“Wait a sec!” Albus said angrily. “Alex, you said yourself you fancied a trip into the forest. So quit lying! I’m quickly losing respect for you!”
“If you want proof you belong in Gryffindor try the hat on again!” Alex offered loudly. “And if you try it, regardless of the house, we’ll take your excursion into the forest and I’ll leave you alone. We all will. Truce. Let you do as you please. That’s a promise.”
“The hat is in Phoenix’s office,” Albus said pointedly. “Even if we snuck up there, what makes you think he’d”-
“The hat senses conflict inside your head,” Alex said easily as Eric silenced himself. “If Gryffindor would’ve suited you fine as well, it’d tell you. So, during dinner tonight, we’ll sneak up to his office. Mark knows the password. We’ll try the hat on, and see what happens. Deal?”
So this was it. This was where it all led to. Mark was going to win. He was going to get what he wanted and without a fight. Albus was going to be resorted. But Albus was so sure that he and Scorpius belonged in the same house, as best friends, and he was almost positive the hat would throw him back into Slytherin. Slowly, he nodded, “Deal.”