The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 25: The Gryffindor Dormitory
It wasn’t easy being a Gryffindor, Albus soon found out. As a matter of fact, it was quite difficult. As difficult as being a Slytherin. Troubles were the same, just the other way around. Instead of fighting Gryffindors, he fought Slytherins. Friends changed in an instant. All of a sudden, Daniel Dagger jumped to be his friend, Nigel seemed eager to talk to him, and Samuel gave him thumbs up every time they passed, his cousins Louis and Fred made whistles of glee each time he passed and even James whooped in happiness when Albus sat down near the fire place with mark and the twins. And those particular three were nowhere near as close to Albus as Scorpius was.
Albus was sure that Mark and the twins never had to endure remarks from former friends in Slytherin. A lot of Slytherins, including Malcolm, chastised Albus for changing to Gryffindor. Indeed, his only friends in Slytherin seemed to be Scorpius and Lorcan. Not that Scorpius was sticking up for Albus. He just wasn’t getting involved. Still, he never failed to give Malcolm an angry look when Albus was made fun of, and he never failed to throw Albus a quick smile when they were alone for a split second. Albus had a feeling that Walter would’ve also loved to join his brother, but Scorpius held him back.
Even Era seemed to distance herself from him now. The once indifferent Laura was all of a sudden interested in Albus, but sadly, Gabriel Dagger took a quiet, have-nothing-to-do-with-this stance. It would’ve been good to integrate a comic like Gabriel into the group, but he was reluctant. Riley also knew, and Albus knew Riley to be completely indifferent, but he hardly counted since his home was the Forbidden Forest now. Since Lysander made Gryffindor, he and Albus were on acquaintance terms. Now, they were friends. Indeed, Albus could now say he befriended the Scamander twins truthfully. At least, for a week he could.
The schedule wasn’t too different, except that Potions was hell, as it always was for a Gryffindor since the last several Potions teachers were all Slytherin, from Phineas Nigellus Black to Slughorn to Snape and even Phoenix before he became Headmaster. Albus now had Charms with the Hufflepuff’s. This, of course meant that he no longer had private Charms games with Ravencvlaw friend Alexis Ackerly.
This did not stop him seeing here however. During lunch break, the Ravenclaws and the Gryffindors often passed from their own classes or towers and Alexis ran into Albus enough. Of course, she never stopped grinning at his robes which now had the lion.
“So… Gryffindor, huh?” she asked snidely, and Albus could tell she meant something behind this question but could not figure out what.
“Erm… yeah, for now.”
“If I want it to be,” Albus shrugged.
Alexis threw a quick glance at Mark and the twins, who were standing a few steps back and came in close to Albus and whispered, “Ok, Al, tell me honestly, did he force you?”
Albus shook his head loyally. She gave him a quizzical look but did not push the subject. Mark and the twins went ahead and walked off, disappearing behind a corner. Alexis watched them go and sighed. Something seemed to be bothering her this time. Was it his change of house? Alexis never cared, did she? Being of neither Gryffindor or Slytherin. But her next question to him proved she did mind.
“Al, tell me honestly,” Alexis began.
“Would you… well… change me at all, if you could?”
Albus was mystified at the question. For one thing, here was Alexis asking him the kind of question a middle-aged couple would ask each other. And Albus was at a loss. If his next answer offended her… It never occurred to him that he may lose Alexis’ liking. She was always his friend, no matter what. Throughout his darkest days the previous year, she stuck by him. She never left his side. She took him in to the Ravenclaw common room, she got Hagrid to magically make his life better, and at the end of it all, she hugged him.
But during their solitary days the previous year, she offered a lot of insight on Mark. Insight that was proven correct because Alexis was, in Albus’ opinion a genius. You’ll be too boring for me if you’re Gryffindor, she said. She liked him better in Slytherin.
“What’s up?” Alexis asked. “Something on your mind?”
Albus snapped out of his thought process and noticed he was walking with her down the stairs, taking the longest way to the Great Hall possible. “Yeah, there is,” he said quietly and honestly. He never, not once, could bring himself to lie to her. “I’m a Gryffindor now.”
“Mm, hmm,” she said, keeping her mouth closed.
“I’m not boring to you, am I?”
Then, she did something Albus did not expect at all. She laughed. Her laugh so genuine and carefree, and she put a slender arm around his back as if they were the best of friends and always were, “Don’t worry about that, Al,” she sniggered. “I’m not prejudiced like some people seem to be,” she said in reference to Mark and Walter and possibly Scorpius. “I don’t care what house you’re in, I’ll always be your friend.”
Somehow, Albus felt very reassured. They approached the main staircase and stopped at the top of it, not going down. Scorpius just passed him and gave him a quick, acknowledging look. Looking around to see if anyone was watching, Scorpius met his eyes for the first time and said, “Alright, Al? Enjoying yourself?”
Albus blinked and nodded quickly, “Yeah, thank you. What about you?”
“Could be better, dorm is quiet,” Scorpius shrugged. “Well, I’ll leave you be. Tell me about it… next week?”
Albus and Alexis watched as Scorpius made his way down the stairs and turned for the Great Hall. Just then, from the front doors walked in Lily and Hugo, faces dirtied from Herbology. Lily tripped over her own feet at the door and Hugo bent to help her up. But Scorpius beat him to it. Hugo shrugged and folded his arms, watching with his face expressionless. Lily gave Scorpius a quick nod as a thank you, went red, and rushed inside with her cousin. Scorpius followed right after.
“I stand corrected,” Alexis commented casually. “Scorpius is not prejudiced.”
Now, it was Albus’ turn to laugh. And he did the same thing He put a hand on her shoulder as he laughed aloud and said, “Him? Not prejudiced? He’s the most prejudiced bigot I know.”
“Well, that’s friendly,” Alexis said sarcastically. “Did you see what I saw?”
“Yeah, but…” Albus was lost for words.
“He acts that way,” Alexis told him as if it were the most obvious fact in the world. “To save face in Slytherin. But odds are he’d have befriended you even if you made Gryffindor from the beginning.”
“If you- say so,” Albus muttered.
“Are you going to go back?”
“Dunno,” Albus shrugged, honestly not sure what he wanted to do. Yes, he would lose his Slytherin team position and yes that meant the Slytherin dormitory was dwindling but it also meant friendlier faces in Gryffindor and a new friend in Mark and the twins. Then, something occurred to him, “Wait, are you testing me?’ he said, almost accusatory. Alexis was a little affronted and mystified at the question. Albus went on, “You said you preferred me in Slytherin. So, if I stayed Gryffindor, you’d know whose opinion I considered more valuable. You hope I’ll take your opinion into account.”
Albus said the last statement with a smile, just to stay friendly. Alexis stared at him in great surprise, mouth slightly open. At first, Albus was a little worried he may have pushed it too far and was prepared to apologize when she smiled and nodded, “You are very perceptive. Yes, Al, that’s exactly what I wanted to see.”
“Thank you,” Albus muttered, sensing the end of their conversation coming.
Alexis sighed and nodded, “Well, promise me one thing. Whatever you decide, tell me before you go through with it, will you?”
Albus looked at her, and their eyes met. For a second, he thought he saw her eyes welling up in tears before she blinked and any signs were gone. “Hoping to convince me if I make the wrong choice?”
Then, Alexis reached out and put both hands on his shoulders, surprising him again. She always did and something told him she always will. “You belong in Slytherin, Al. Your best friends are there. Besides, if you stay a Gryffindor, you’ll encourage any remaining prejudice in Mark. If he’s really your friend, he’ll stay one even after you move. Just like Scorpius proved to be. If anyone needs to be tested, it’s not you or me, it’s Mark Wallader.”
“You’re right,” Albus told her honestly.
“I know,” she grinned. “So, promise me, will you?”
“Promise,” Albus swore, hand up.
That day alone was enough to tell Albus that though he changed house, his most important friends were still with him. Scorpius, whatever space he gave Albus was still on speaking terms and Alexis, however disappointed she may have initially been, was still his friend.
A marking point of what Albus later dubbed Gryffindor week was later that night, when Laura threw what was known by the Gryffindors as The Tantrum and Albus serious considered staying a Gryffindor despite Alexis’ advice. At first confused, Albus soon saw what was meant by that. Albus was sitting at the table with Lysander. Lysander was talking through the fine points of being a Gryffindor when Samuel Redgrow ran down with his sister Fauna. Both of them seemed excited and Fauna was holding a radio. “Harry Potter is going to speak! Harry Potter is going to speak.”
Squealing in delight, little Laura Creevey jumped up in excitement as Alex pulled out his wand and yelled a short incantation. The radio switched on at his command and the common room grew quiet. Lysander only had time to whisper, “People here love your dad,” before the radio went on.
“…and now,” Minister Cauldwell’s voice said in midsentence. “Without further ado, Harry Potter.”
The sound of clapping was heard over the wireless. Albus had only ever heard his father speak once when he was eight. Now he was speaking again and as he had never told Albus he was making a speech, this came as a surprise and Albus was curious to hear what his father had to say.
“Ministry delegation, foreign internationals, and Minister thank you for giving me this privilege to speak before you today. I’ve faced a rather surprising controversy since last year regarding exchange students who graced Hogwarts with their presence. The controversy spearheaded by Rita Skeeter has gained a head in the last months and since my resignation, I have been blissfully quiet. I was asked to address this issue.
“These students, an American, French, Egyptian, Chinese, and an Australian, were allowed here in the first place by none other than myself, Professor Phoenix, and Mr. Blackberry of the Department of International Magical Cooperation. This was done under full consent of the Minister, foreign delegations of the nations in question and of course the Minister and the school board.
“This has gained controversy and attention simply because Hogwarts has never been home to an exchange student before let alone five. It is further exacerbated by the fact that we ourselves never sent an exchange student save one time in the 1800’s to Albania.
“The students were moved out of Hogwarts due to unlawful intervention by the Minister of Education who is currently broiled in a Goblin controversy. So we sent letters, it is not the Ministry’s concern how Hogwarts operates and runs its business.
“Incommodo’s threats are meaningless as he may pull out of this Goblin mess anytime he wants. If he has nothing to hide and speaks of justice, allow justice to come around and let Phoenix peek inside his vault. We’re not accusing him… simply peeking. It is a show that no one is above the law and in its eyes, all are equal. Incommodo cannot get away with what he did, something that has never been heard of.
“I received an order of suspension; however, straight from Incommodo telling me to stop all writing against Skeeter or risk public humiliation. I was also asked to send a recommendation letter to the school board to suspend Phoenix and the Minister to suspend Blackberry. While the writing against Skeeter has ceased on my sister-in-law’s part and while I resigned, the recommendation will not be sent. In fact, I strongly advise all parties to keep Phoenix and Blackberry where they are as I believe whole-heartedly they are performing their jobs well. I only hope Phoenix hears my message and responds by giving chances to those who deserve it.
“Allow me to reveal something about these supposed exchange students though. These are children of Muggle-born witches and wizards who fled during the second war. They have led lives abroad and wished to send their children back to be educated at Hogwarts. There is nothing wrong with that, but this act does indeed send a strong political message to those who still sympathize with the Puritans. They were not foreign but British by blood. Our opponents grew angry and raised hell over British wizards and witches returning.
“We do not know who these people are or what they want, but we have managed to get them out of these respective countries and we should be known for that. The students remain in Hogwarts for further protection and the best Wizarding education Britain has to offer. Thus far nothing has happened to Hogwarts or the students within. These people have nothing to do with Hogwarts and the problem was a purely political one. Once the students were out of their countries, the problem hit a dead end and lives were saved.
“So the criticism against the Ministry for sending in exchange students is unfounded. When others have problems, we help them. This is no different for those of different heritage than us as we learned long ago. This was done with perfect legality and perfect consent from those in charge.
“However, what we do not know is if any of these threats against these students have any connections to the murder of Mr. Harriet Wallader who was regrettably killed two years ago. This murder remains a mystery to us and this worries us greatly. Until we have evidence that they are connected; however, we see no reason to keep these students out. Hogwarts is safe as far as we’re concerned and we’ll make full effort to bring them back.
“As developments arise, we will inform the wider public especially if it involves Hogwarts. Remember, the vast majority of us have children within Hogwarts who we want to keep safe.
The Gryffindor’s wolf-whistled with the faceless crowd over the wireless, Lysander patting Albus on the back and James heaving his chest up in pride. Samuel Redgrow pat him on the back and Daniel Dagger was yelling for others to praise him enough, seeming to try to lead a chant for Harry while pointing his fingers excitedly at James.
“When did the enthusiasm start?” Albus asked.
He couldn’t help grinning. There was one thing Gryffindor had that Slytherin lacked. Appreciation. Even Scorpius seemed indifferent about Harry or his heroic doings. He would only speak of his grandmother’s heroic actions and how Harry wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for her. Gryffindors appreciated it, even bragged of how they helped gladly. Even humble and girly Laura Creevey would speak of how her late uncle Colin had fought even though he was underage.
Fifteen minutes of excitement over Harry Potter passed and just as it was starting to die down, a loud cry sounded behind them. Daniel, who stood nearest to her, backed away. Laura Creevey was on the floor, screaming like a banshee. Daniel rolled his eyes, disappearing behind the bit of brown hair that poked from the front of his baseball cap. But his carelessness made her scream more.
Albus looked at Lysander questioningly, and the kid mouthed, “Happens now and then.”
Before Daniel could walk away, Mark had appeared behind him. Then, there was a commotion. Lysander widened his eyes, and took Albus by the arm. A stray spell had blasted the chair Albus was sitting on seconds before apart. Mark had his wand out, and it pointed directly at Daniel’s chest.
“YOU ASS HOLE!” Mark was yelling at Daniel in a way Albus never heard him yell before. Daniel yelled back too, being the vicious guy that he was, but Mark didn’t recoil as most did. He continued yelling for assaulting a girl, which Mark was known to consider quite low.
Alex and Eric were watching from behind Mark, and Lysander took Albus nearer the fireplace, and whispered, “When Daniel yells, flee. The guy’s a monster.”
Taken by a sudden idea, Albus grinned, “But I’m a Gryffindor, now!” And he jumped up, ready to avenge Scorpius. Albus surprised both Mark and Laura as he launched himself at Daniel, and locked his legs around. The pressure and weight brought both to the floor, and Albus whipped his wand out. He punched Daniel once on the face, jumped up, stomped on his arm, and spat at him, “That’s for punching my friend, loser!”
Ah, but so like a Gryffindor Albus was at heart, he didn’t stop to reconsider his actions before attacking. Now, Daniel was going to go on the offensive, and teach him a lesson. Before Albus could think of fleeing the Slytherin way, Mark widened his eyes, and looked at Albus significantly, “Get up to the dorm! I’ll hold him back!”
The last time Albus got involved in Mark’s affairs, Mark yelled at him, so Albus didn’t know what Mark would do now they were friends. Albus didn’t have to worry though. Throughout the week, Mark treated Albus the way he always wanted to be treated by that boy. Like a very, very close friend. Like a brother. Alex and Eric treated him the way they treated anyone else who wasn’t Mark. A friend. They, especially Eric, seemed to be trying their hardest to make Albus feel at home. Perhaps they were hoping that Albus would ultimately ask Galadral for permanent change at the end of the week.
Albus had to admit, he considered it. But he felt that the Gryffindor third year boys dormitories were meant exclusively for Mark and the twins. Though they made him feel at home, Albus felt more like a visitor there. The three were too close, and it made Albus feel like an outcast. He’d rather they were friends through houses, and not through the dorm.
Contemplating his return to Slytherin, he wondered if his old friends would take him back. He never cared for Malcolm much, but he was hurt to see Walter looking so, if anything, on Malcolm’s side. He knew Scorpius was still a friend. He only kept himself closed off for a week, for both their sakes. If the two hung out as usual, they’d face a lot of viciousness from Slytherins and Gryffindors, and now Albus could appreciate how Mark felt. As for Walter, Albus wasn’t sure, but maybe he was acting that way for Malcolm. Only time would tell, and if that was true, no doubt he’d say so when Albus finally returned to the Slytherin dorm.