Chapter 22 I’ll Sacrifice Anything

The Goblin’s Amulet

Chapter 22: I’ll Sacrifice Anything

The only reason Albus did not scream aloud and lose his mind was because Hugo was there. Hugo was already emotionally weak at that moment. If he had cried aloud, Hugo might have done the same. No, for his sake, Albus needed to remain calm. He would save the screaming and crying until later. When Hugo was not around. His suppression must have shown though because he was shaking all over and Hugo hid his head in Albus’ chest, using his shirt to dry the flood of tears. He clutched the blanket tensely, trying to calm himself down before looking up at Albus.

“W-where is she?”

Albus had an idea and he had a dark feeling that he was right too. “The Shrieking Shack,” Albus said aloud.

Hugo just nodded once, visibly easier. Not something Albus wanted to see either. An easy Hugo when Lily was hostage only meant one thing. And Hugo was Gryffindor. His actions were predictable. “Fine, then.”

Hugo made to walk out of the dormitory, despite the noise from outside. He simply did not care. Albus had to force himself to get up and stand in front, “Wait a sec”-

“Out of the way, Al,” Hugo said bitterly. “I’m going myself.”

“Soto wants me,” Albus almost yelled. “You’ll only get yourself killed.”

“I don’t care!” Hugo yelled. And he yelled so loudly, Albus knew they would be heard. He rolled his eyes and summoned his cloak over and quickly hid himself and Hugo just as the dormitory door opened. It was Scorpius, looking disconcerted before shrugging and shutting the door. Albus and Hugo slipped past him before it closed thankfully and out of the Common room a minute later.

When they were safely in the Entrance Hall, Albus whipped the cloak off and turned to Hugo. “Look”-

“What can you do?”

“What would you do?” Albus told him forcefully, close to shaking him. “If someone was holding your sister hostage unless you gave him exactly what he wanted. And that something might destroy everything you know and love.”

Hugo was silent, pondering the dilemma before finally resigning himself to the answer, “I’ll give it to him,” he sighed. “Anything to keep my sister alive. Anything to save her.”

“I’ll get Lily back, then,” Albus swore.

“I can’t stay and do nothing!” Hugo muttered angrily. “She’s my sist…” he stopped himself, biting his lip as Albus opened his mouth in shock. Hugo realized his near mistake and repressing his emotions again, corrected himself, “She’s my cousin.”

Albus had no choice. Ok, what would Alexis tell him to do? Calm down, Al. Think rationally. He doesn’t want her dead or you’d have lost by now. You have time. Soto had his sister, possibly Alexis and Seth as well, the latter of his own accord most likely. Not only that, he sent Albus a message telling him so, which meant that Albus had to know. There was no indication that Soto was about to kill Lily either. He needed something Albus had. Albus still did not know why Soto gave it to him to begin with but he had it. And now, Soto wanted it back.

Whatever the amulet’s importance was, Albus did not care. It caused so much trouble, he just wanted to be rid of it. But Albus also needed a plan. Simply walking in was not going to help matters at all, which was why Hugo had to be kept inside the school. He would be reckless. Albus had to be pragmatic.

“Tell James,” Albus found himself saying. He did not know what exactly James could do but Albus trusted he would pull something off. After all, I am the eyes and ears of the castle. If you need help, come to me. “Take the map and the cloak. Where I’m going, I won’t need it.”

“Where we’re going,” Hugo corrected firmly. “You’re not going alone and I love Lily just as much as you do!”

Usually, Albus’ big-brotherly instincts would have kicked in and contested Hugo’s bold remarks. But he could not afford to waste time. Though he was positive that Soto had no interest in killing anyone, he still had to be quick. He was obviously expected there. But Hugo… Albus still had to keep him off but how… Rose. Rose would probably try to keep Albus off too but she learned long ago she could not control her cousin that easily. Hugo on the other hand was impressionable and would be forced to listen to her. So, before he gave Hugo the map, he stole one look at it. Rose was in a Transfiguration classroom with Fauna Redgrow on the sixth floor.

Hugo took the cloak and the map and made to the Common room, telling Albus he would meet him near the Whomping Willow later. He ran off at top speed. Albus followed after but took an immediate turn once upstairs. He pushed a portrait open and walked through for a shortcut to the fifth floor and took another right to a staircase leading to the sixth. He sighed in relief as he reached the top and ran through the hall, looking in each classroom until he heard familiar voices in one.

“Rose!” Albus yelped, skidding to a halt.

“I’ll just… go,” Fauna said uncertainly and she pushed past Albus and walked out.

Rose looked up concernedly but Albus had no time to lose. He shut the door and spilled it all out. He told Rose everything. From the letters to the threats. He told her of the Hogsmeade visit Hugo and Lily went on in defiance of the rules and ended, to her horror, of Soto’s final letter. The letter claiming Lily.

Rose was shaken but visibly calmer and of saner mind than either Albus or Hugo. “Al, I do hope you’re not thinking of going there alone. We’ll… tell father and Uncle Harry. But we can’t do this alone.”

“Not me,” Albus shook his head. “Hugo.”

“What?”

“He’s in the Gryffindor Common room,” Albus said quickly and she zipped past him, Albus feeling a little pleased with himself. A big lie coupled with the truth. Even if Rose stopped Hugo, Hugo would never turn Albus in even out of bitterness. Too much was riding on it. And thankfully, he was one floor below the place he needed to be. Soto wanted the amulet… and Albus needed leverage. This was his best chance. A part of him felt guilty taking it out when he and Mark hid it together but they had no choice. This was why he kept the amulet in the first place.

In five minutes, Albus was once more in the charred Room of Requirement. He almost forgot about the Charms on it but he remembered Mark’s various protections on the objects. Then, he could fully appreciate just how gifted Mark Wallader really was. He cloned the amulet. He copied it exactly. The seven cabinets were still there. Albus could probably give Soto the fake one. “Mark, you’re a genius,” Albus whispered to himself.

“Why, thank you,” someone said from behind.

Albus jumped and spun around. Mark, it appeared had entered just as Albus did. Mark Wallader was standing, leaning against the wall beside the door, a small smile on his face mixed with disturbance. So, he knew too. Yes. Soto had been in touch with Mark too.

“I’m guessing you got the letter too,” Mark shrugged. “Relax, Al, he won’t do anything to her yet. He’ll want the amulet first.”

Albus was not sure what to do now. Things were getting complicated really fast. He barely managed to stop Hugo and now Mark knew. He would definitely want to walk up to the shack himself and Albus had no means to stop him. If he told the twins, they’d probably join him. Unless Albus told Aries. He did not know Aries too well but would she consent to Mark walking into danger over someone she barely knew herself? She was probably the best weak point Albus could pick on when it came to Mark.

“By the way,” Mark said seriously as he walked further in. “Don’t even think about telling Aries on me.” Merlin’s beard! It was like Mark read his mind. “She’s asleep, so… she’s out of the question for you.”

Albus stopped in front of the cabinet with the real amulet inside. “Where are the twins?” Albus asked.

Mark opened one of the other cabinets and took a fake one out. “Alex is writing to da- to Harry Potter. And Eric is telling Hagrid.”

Albus took the fake Amulet out of the cabinet before realizing Mark had the real one. He held his hand out for it but Mark clutched his hand around it, shaking his head, “No way, Al. You’re not giving Soto what he wants.”

“What?” Albus whispered, surprised. Something inside him was snapping again. Albus felt that slowly, with the tension this year had brought him, he was slowly losing his sanity. Too many things were snapping. Feelings and emotions he held on to for too long to let go of easily.

“Al, please,” Mark rolled his eyes. “You’re so readable, it’s scary. I could tell from your eyes alone that you meant to tell Aries or the twins on me. Soto would probably catch your lie in seconds if you tried giving him the fake amulet, at least let me see the truth when he asks if you have the real one. I am holding on to it. And to clarify, I’m going with you. Soto wants me as much as he wants you.”

“You are not even going,” Albus said bluntly.

The two stared at each other in the Room of Requirement for a full minute, trying to read the other’s mind. Albus remembered how difficult it was to read Mark’s expressions and even now, when his sister’s life was on the line, he could not for the life of him read what Mark intended to do with the amulet. But Albus was reaching boiling point. He was not sure Mark really knew or cared as much as Albus did concerning what Soto really wanted and what Albus was willing to sacrifice to get Lily back. Mark on the other hand, with no real ties to the Potters, may very well decide to hold the amulet over Soto and refuse to give it back no matter what. Albus did not trust Mark.

“Mark,” Albus said in forced calm. “She’s my sister. Give me the Amulet. I’ll save her.”

“You’re not giving it to Soto,” Mark said bluntly. “Whatever he wants from it, you can bet he’ll use it to wreck everything we’ve worked so hard to build.”

“I don’t care, she’s my sister”- Albus argued.

“Al!” Mark said angrily. “You don’t get it! So you save Lily and give him the Amulet. What makes you think he’ll refrain from using it on you all later. What if he uses it on Harry? And he will! You might as well kill us all right now!”

Albus knew Mark had a point but he also knew that at least it gave all of them a chance to live another day, a chance to plan ahead, and a chance to keep Lily out of harm’s way. That kind of reasoning would not work on Mark. “Stay out of it!” Albus said through gritted teeth. “Lily is my responsibility! Not yours. You’re just an adopted child. You don’t have the ties to Lily and James and dad, mum, Uncle Ron or Hugo and Rose… none of them like I do. You have no idea how to take care of them, you lack the mindset you’ll need to save her. Cause, Mark, I’ll sacrifice anything save her. Even if it means handing Soto the keys to world domination, I’ll do it!”

“Then, you’re crazy! She’s one girl. Sacrifice the entire world to- sorry. I’m sorry!” Mark realized his mistake too late.

Mark’s retort infuriated Albus so much, confirmed what Albus already feared about Mark, that he was beyond screaming now. Albus just threw a punch at Mark’s stomach, summoned the real Amulet to him and walked out. A small part of him felt guilty for hurting him, because Albus caught the look on his face as he yelled at him. Albus’ words stung Mark badly and to top it all, Albus punched him. He could just hear Mark wailing out loud, in pain, misery, worry, all of the above, Albus did not know or care. Lily was his responsibility. And if Mark, someone who admitted he feared death, was willing to try holding leverage over Soto even at the risk of Lily’s own life, Albus would never regret his actions or his words.

Albus ran downstairs, taking flight after flight, every shortcut he knew to get to the Entrance hall in just over a minute. He just reached the oak doors and pulled them open when he felt a tender hand touch him from behind. At first, he thought it was Mark to apologize. But it was Rose and she looked apologetic.

“I can’t stop Hugo, Al,” she admitted quietly.

Albus gaped in shock and worry. “What?” Yet another something snapped inside.

“I’m sorry, we yelled, I was seriously about to Jinx him but… he silenced me… never knew he could do that Charm… and”-

Albus just pushed past her, ignoring all her words, ignoring her calls for him to come back. He opened the doors and took off after Hugo. There was only one passage that led directly to the Shrieking Shack. Albus did not know if Hugo knew it but if James did and Hugo talked to Uncle George enough, he would know too. Yes, there was every chance Hugo would use that passage regardless of the danger before the passage let alone after the passage. Albus took towards the Whomping Willow.