The Goblin’s Amulet
Chapter 23: The Coming Storm
Of all things to happen to Albus that year, this was the worst. Lily had been taken and the more setbacks he suffered, the more worried he got and the more insane it made him. Something disconnected from Lily was stirring inside of him, awakening and Albus did not like it. As he peered through the darkness towards the Whomping Willow, he could not believe what he saw. A large mass holding branches in place, fighting a raging tree as a smaller form ducked down and disappeared underneath. The branches stopped and the giant form stopped.
Albus forgot, Mark told Albus that Hagrid was being told. Now, Hagrid was taking action but in the way Albus never would have expected. It made him even angrier. He broke into a run, hoping he could catch Hugo but he knew he was far gone when the tree stopped moving. “HUGO!” Albus called. “HUGO!”
The mass turned towards him but Albus ignored Hagrid, “Hugo, get back here! You don’t know what you’re doing!”
“You let him go!” Albus screamed, not caring who heard him now.
“Listen ter me”-
“What kind of a Professor are you?” Albus demanded. “How- how many family members do I have to lose today?”
“LISTEN!” Hagrid raged, eyes going cold black in a way Albus had never seen before. And now he saw Hagrid up close, he saw how wounded the half giant was from fighting the tree. There were cuts and bruises and some looked deep. “Hugo got his heart in the righ’ place. And judgin’ by yeh losing yer mind and whatnot, he’s the on’y one sane enough to stand a chance!”
“You- you’re a teacher!” Albus said shakily. “You…” Albus took a deep breath, trying not to lose it again. He had already hurt Mark and Rose. But why was everyone acting weird? Rose could not convince Hugo to stay, Hagrid actually let him go…
“I have no intention of letting him go alone,” Hagrid said gruffly. “Now, Hugo is the on’y one small ‘nough to crawl in under the branches and push the knot. Yeh can now crawl in undisturbed and stop him yerself.”
Albus leapt inside the passageway and crawled through, sliding down and landed in a tunnel. It was low enough for a tiny boy like Hugo to crawl through but Albus needed to bend over and go extra fast. Hoping Hugo would be smart enough to at least wait for Albus to catch up, Albus called, “Hugo! Hugo! Wait up!”
Albus caught a stream of light moving to his face and he knew Hugo stopped. Albus finally managed to catch up to him and panted breathlessly, trying to formulate a plan in his mind to stop him. Then, he caught the paper in Hugo’s hands. The map. “You never gave it to James?”
Hugo shook his head, “No. I thought maybe… after I told James about Lily… I thought maybe Soto would negotiate if I had a map of Hogwarts. It’s the best I can offer.”
“You were gonna”- Albus stopped. Was it possible this was the last night any Potter would be using that map?
Hugo sat down and covered his eyes, “I’m sorry, Al. The further I go, the stupider I feel.”
“It’s not too late,” Albus gulped. “Just go back. Tell Phoenix. That alone would probably save Lily and save your own skin. You give me the map and I can definitely negotiate till help comes. I know it.” And he did. He meant it. Somehow, he felt more confident as he spoke to Hugo that it would be alright in the end.
But Hugo shook his head, “I c-can’t. Lily… Al, she may be your sister but she’s my friend. I’ve been with her my entire life. Our birthdays are barely a month apart. And I’m like a brother to her. I- I love her. I would never forgive myself if I did nothing.”
“Hugo, you’re second year”-
“So were you when you saved Mark’s life at your own risk!” Hugo said, voice getting louder with every word, eyes welling up. “But you hated his guts! I love Lily. I can’t leave her. I swore to you I’d look after her, didn’t I? Well, if anything’s gonna happen to her, if she…” Hugo gulped, and did an intake of breath, unable to continue, the possibility clearly terrifying him. “It’s best she’s with me. She’ll feel better.”
“I’m her brother,” Albus said, trying not to feel too moved by Hugo’s speech. “She’ll feel much better with me than with you.”
“What about both of us?”
Albus had no choice. He whipped his wand out and pointed it at his cousin, “Hugo, I’m sorry.”
Hugo looked devastated, like something had just occurred to him. He kept his eyes down, not meeting Albus’ eyes as he said in a low whisper, “I hate you, Al.” Albus felt a pang in his stomach. Yet another person he ended up hurting in his mad fear. A fear that had haunted him the entire year. Hugo took a deep breath, “You failed to protect Lily once. You can’t be trusted.” And he looked up at Albus, eyes twinkling with tears as he spoke his next words as threateningly as possible, “If anything happens to her, Al, I’ll kill you.”
The latest threat hit hard. Albus might have dropped his wand and cried for forgiveness in any normal time but Hugo was his cousin. Though Hugo probably hated him now. Gone were the days where the two would playfully discuss their favorite Quidditch team the Appleby Arrows or play Quidditch in the air, on a board, or make fun of Uncle Ron together and his undying love for the Cannons.
Albus did not lower his wand, “If anything happens to Lily… Soto will probably beat you to it. Petrificus Totalus!”
Hugo went rigid as expected, doubled over and fell back, stiff as wood, frozen on the floor and unable to move. Albus stepped over him, knowing Hugo could no longer speak. He said, “She’ll be ok, Hugo. I promise you. But I know you can never hate me, no matter what. Because I’ll give my life for Lily. Any day of the week, any hour of the day. Soto’s been threatening me, Mark and Lily this entire year. I can’t let him get away with this. And rest assured cousin, I have a trump card. I have leverage. Thanks to you, I have two. Soto will want to let Lily go. Soto won’t have his way.”
Albus could dimly see an apologetic look in Hugo’s eyes as he walked quickly on, not stopping for anything this time. Not till he saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and muffled voices ahead. One was familiar. Lily. She’s still alive.
The path to Hogsmeade…
No one yet noticed but Hagrid was not going to let two students walk to their deaths. After spending less than a minute readying his umbrella, he trudged across the grounds, just a lone massive figure, stomping towards the gates and out of sight, across the path to Hogsmeade. The village lights shone in the distance, all residents unaware of just what danger lay in the Shrieking Shack.
Beyond the forest…
“The half giant has left,” Dubium said urgently, voice growing louder as he faced the Reservation of Pure-bloods. “The Vampires are outnumbered. Mobilize. We march on Hogwarts… tonight! Tonight, we finally reveal ourselves to the world, a world who has lived in ignorance for far too long! Now move forth! Kill whoever stands in your way!”
Within the Ministry…
“Interesting,” Incommodo whispered wispily in a darkened room, the only source of light coming from a floating candle, illuminating the letter he had been reading. “Well, Orgella, you have done well. Take back your side with Soto and allow him to play whatever part he wishes. I’ll be there shortly. Keep from Soto my arrival. Let him be caught off guard. And he will meet his end. He will regret taking a course of action against me.”
“Yes, Master Incommodo,” Orgella bowed respectfully. “And what of the Goblins?”
“I’ll be paying them a little visit,” Incommodo said frankly and dangerously. “They’ll be… interested to know of a possible lead. And who’d have thought their missing object would be in Hogwarts all this time. Even under their useless noses. Call Lucius Malfoy in here.”
Mors Incommodo sat waiting for five minutes before a loud crack sounded outside his office. It lit up with a powerful light from Malfoy’s wand as Lucius walked in, snake staff in another hand. “You called, did you?” he said bemusedly, and rather challengingly.
“Indeed,” Mors said wispily. “The Malfoy family has been making a comeback recently. I advise you to rethink your loyalties. A storm is on its way, looming evermore over the horizon. This Ministry will fall very soon, within the next year and when it does, you do not want to find yourself on the wrong side of history.”
Lucius did not seem fazed but stared at Incommodo dangerously, “The Malfoy family… are never found on the wrong side of history. Be it a global Wizarding conflict, a plague, or two Wars with the Dark Lord… we always live on. No matter what.”
“I think you’ll find yourself mistaken,” Incommodo warned. “You are aware, I believe of the Goblins in Hogsmeade and your recent decision to push them out.”
“I’m the one who made it,” Lucius said dangerously.
“And yet you ally yourself with the Weasleys in this, coordinating your efforts in the Law Enforcement with the Auror Department,” Incommodo got straight, voice growing wispier and more dangerous and threatening with every tone. “I expect you to call off the attack till after the summer is over. The Goblins will soon have their way and you do not want to find yourself in the middle of an incoming Goblin rebellion.”
“Pathetic,” Lucius spat. “You and I… long have we stood on opposite sides, even when our views hold similar. I have not sunk so low as to be told what to do by a madman outside my own Department. You have no business.”
“You will regret this transgression,” Incommodo whispered madly. “The storm will claim your family first.”
Lucius pointed his wand at Incommodo, eyebrows slightly raised, “Is that a threat?”
“Indeed,” Incommodo responded, and in his hands appeared two wands, each pointed readily at Lucius Malfoy and voice steadily going from wispy to rough. “Your family has committed crimes too heinous to mention now. Get out of my office. And always remember, after your family is wiped into nonexistence, that it was I who offered you a last chance at redemption! And you were the sole man who failed to save it from extinction by refusing me!”
Finally in Godric’s Hollow…
“Call every Auror at your disposal,” Harry told Ron significantly. “Ginny, however much you may want to go, Soto is my problem. Stay here.” Ginny’s eyes were fiery but they held no confrontation in them. The fires in them were dampened from shock. Her daughter… Harry put a hand on her shoulder, “She’ll be fine. Hagrid is on it. And I swear, once this is over, I am removing Phoenix from his post. How dare this happen under his nose.”
“Don’t blame Phoenix,” Hermione warned him. “He’s the only man in Hogwarts who could possibly build up a force strong enough to strike back. He’s the only man whose hands Hogwarts can trust.”
Harry looked unsure and half mad but he took a deep breath, calming himself, “I’ll deal with him later. Ron, you know what to do. Expel the Goblins from Hogsmeade, with or without the help of Malfoy.”
And back at Hogwarts…
Of all the things to happen to the security of Hogwarts that day, this was the worse. Without a doubt. Professor Ackerly was standing with Professor Creevey, facing a horde of students. The last count was eight, now over fifteen were in front of the doors, yelling and partaking in civil disobedience. Some fifth years led by James even openly burned their textbooks, outright refusing to even talk to the teachers. Professor Ackerly never thought he’d have to face this. A student uprising. The only uprising he took part in was the final one within Hogwarts itself in his fourth year when he fought Death Eater control of the school. Pitifully, he missed the final battle when he was commanded to flee.
He closed the doors on the crowd. But the one waiting for him… he thought he’d much rather stay behind and face the horde of students. It was Galadral Phoenix, staring at him through the mane of blonde hair covering his face. “What the bloody hell is going on there?”
“A massive uprising,” Professor Ackerly panted.
“Massive?” Phoenix repeated disbelievingly.
Ackerly shrugged, and opened the doors again. As he stared at the crowd again, he noticed they increased in number. Now, fifty were there, and more were coming over to ask what was going on. It was only going to get worse. He shut the doors again, and faced the Headmaster, apprehensive of what Phoenix would do. “Yeah, for Hogwarts standards, pretty massive.”
Phoenix stared at Ackerly incredulously, as if not taking the event seriously. “Uprising? And… what, may I ask are they asking for?”
Ackerly shrugged. Phoenix lost patience there and pushed past him and into the Hall, facing a horde of seventy students. The protest went silent as Phoenix’s presence usually commanded and he faced them, “May I ask what it is you all want?”
“He’s the worst!” Alex Wallaby yelled making Phoenix widen his eyes in surprise. Alex Wallaby even?
“Don’t listen to him,” James commanded the students. “We don’t negotiate with teachers!”
“Merlin’s beard,” Phoenix muttered. “Alright, listen up! Double homework for everyone who continues this madness. Now get back to your dormitories or it’ll be Hogwarts’ first school-wide detention.”
The students were rather quiet at first, processing the threat before James stood on top of one of the long tables and yelled, “You and what army?”
Phoenix rolled his eyes and chose to ignore James. He turned instead to Alex and Eric who were standing alone with Aries. Mark was not with them. His eyes rested on Scorpius Malfoy as well and noticed the absence of Albus. He widened his eyes more and turned back to the twins, “Hmm… Where’s young Wallader this fine evening?”
Aries widened her eyes and turned to Alex accusingly, “You told me he was with Hagrid getting homework help.”
Alex looked slightly guilty as Rose stared in interest and understanding, something Phoenix noted. He turned to the rest of the horde, “I do hope you realize you are all being played as fools. So, if you would all return to your studies, we’ll”-
“Hang Wallaby!” Daniel yelled unexpectedly. “And demand less homework! The teachers are manipulating us.”
And the Great Hall went into uproar again. Patience having worn off, Phoenix took out his wand and sent a bang into the air, face furious. “LISTEN UP!” Suspension for all of you unless you inform me who your leader is!”
Slowly, the Hall pointed to James who grinned widely and mischievously at Phoenix. Phoenix nodded and with a flick of his wand, summoned him over, seized him, took him by the scruff of the shirt and marched him out of the Great Hall, into a side chamber off the Entrance hall, and Charmed the doors shut.
Back in the tunnel…
Albus clambered through, quickening his pace as the tunnel ascended slightly. Just when it did, he felt a startling hand on his shoulder making him jump and gasp. And there, standing in the dim light, eyes wide and shrewd was Mark Wallader.