Chapter 25 The Lure of the Dark Arts

The Goblin’s Amulet

Chapter 25: The Lure of the Dark Arts

Incommodo’s arrival seemed to awaken some monster of tension in the room. His very presence induced it but it was more apparent in Mark, whose eye twitched slightly as Incommodo walked in. Mark seemed very deeply disturbed as Incommodo walked in so easily and casually, like it meant nothing. Here was the man who created so much trouble and the Ministry just took him back with open arms, acting as if he did nothing to warrant being sacked in the first place. His nerves got the better of him and ran at Incommodo angrily.

“Mark, NO!” Albus yelled but Incommodo’s wand was quick. Ropes flew put and bound Mark around the legs, sending him face first to the floor, wand laying beside him.

“I’ll be taking the boy,” Incommodo whispered dangerously. Incommodo pocketed Mark’s wand and Soto watched with no apparent interest.

Albus broke away from Soto and pointed his wand at Incommodo, “Let him go!” he demanded bravely. “Let hi”-

Albus felt his wand fly out of his hand and to an unseen assailant. Soto exclaimed, clearly impressed by the show. “You brought backup this time. Good to see you learned from the mistake you made before of confronting me alone.”

“I’ll deal with you, later,” Incommodo breathed threateningly at Soto, and he seized Mark by the scruff of the shirt to a room off of theirs.

“Well, Mr. Potter, this has just jumped out of my hands,” Soto said casually. “I am afraid your foster brother may…”

“You promised,” Albus said through gritted teeth, using every last fiber in his body to keep himself from jumping on Soto and gouging his eyes out with his bare hands. “You wanted the map, you”- Albus looked about to destroy the map.

Soto spun around and quickly disarmed both backups Incommodo had, giving Albus’ wand back easily before pointing his at Incommodo just as the man stopped at the doorway. Soto summoned three snakes to strike at Incommodo’s followers, forcing them to Apparate just in time. “Loyal, aren’t they? You’re outnumbered, Mors. Let the boy go. You probably don’t want to kill him anyway.”

Incommodo turned to Soto. He released Mark if only for a bit to withdraw two of his own wands. It was a show of power. A flexing of muscle. Albus was surprised to say the least that Incommodo carried two wands. Lily hid behind him and even behind Soto, who still stood beside Albus. Incommodo fixed his yellow eyes on the party very threateningly as he pocketed them again and seized Mark, “Only one murder will be done and it will not be on an underage Wizard. However, I do have words to give to this insolent young boy who assaulted me.”

Soto seemed at ease but something seemed to have changed, like he became a tiny bit nervous as Incommodo made that implicit threat. He took Mark out of the room and into another. The second the door shut, Soto turned to Seth, eyes softening a tiny bit. “A promise is a promise, Seth. Take your friends to the Hogs Head. Then, come back here. Keep away from Hogsmeade station. I believe the Goblins are still there.”

Seth nodded obligingly and took the young hostages. They followed him willingly downstairs and outside, running at top speed across the village. After watching from the window, Soto finally spoke, “Hagrid is here.”

Albus looked up in surprise and hope. Lily blinked in hope and Soto sighed, “Rufeus, Stella, introduce yourselves to him. Stall him however you can. When enough time has passed, alert him to the hostages in the Hogs Head. That ought to keep him off our backs. Well, this has become a tiny bit complicated. Hand me the map, Mr. Potter. As we agreed.”

“No!” Albus growled, wand pointing at Soto. Soto held his hands up in apparent surrender but Albus was not falling for it. Lily gasped as Albus advanced on him, “I want my family out, first! You lied to me!”

“Incommodo has”-

“YOU KNEW HE WAS COMING!” Albus screamed. “You’re just DEALYING! LEAVE MY FAMILY ALONE!”

Albus was aware that tears were forming in a frightened Lily’s eyes. He felt a little moved but kept his eyes on Soto. He was finally yelling at the man who was responsible for all of his misfortunes throughout the year. “Do you want me to let your sister go right now?” Soto offered.

Lily looked up hopefully, drying her eyes. Albus exhaled a sigh of relief and turned to Lily, “Lily, go. The passage is over there. Go back to Hogwarts. Hugo is waiting for you. He’s worried sick.”

Lily looked on the verge of running for it but then, she did something Albus would never forget. She took her wand out and insisted, “Not without you. I’ll be leaving… and I’m taking you with me. You and Mark.”

Soto scoffed, “A very brave, stupid little girl,” he commented. “I hope you both realize that young Wallader might not come out of that room alive. I daresay he might be dead by now.”

Lily let out a small yelp as Soto shrugged, “Or… I could be very wrong. That man is very hard to predict. Are you aware, Mr. Potter, of why I sent you the Goblin’s precious Amulet?”

Albus could only guess, “You wanted me caught,” he guessed. “To be captured.”

“Top marks,” Soto admitted. “I was rather hoping your capture would send your father over here to talk business as he has been ignoring all of my letters. Fortunately, your young sister opened contact with me. Ah, yes, I opened contact with you and Wallader but Miss Potter… she talked to me before any of you, out of worry and love for you two. I daresay she is braver, more self confident, and plenty stupider than the likes of you. She actually put up a fight before submitting to me. Her mother’s daughter indeed. A fiery woman.”

Ginny’s blazing eyes were in Albus’ mind now and as he looked at Lily, he could sense the same burning defensiveness. Albus had underestimated her. Soto shook his head, “I sent for her over here along with Miss Ackerly. Ah, Miss Ackerly was sentimental. She insisted on saying goodbye. So sure was her resolve, she expected to die this night. I am sure she is still very surprised you managed to save her. She handed your body to my son and he forced down a drink to make you invisible and lighter. Courtesy of me. He abducted your sister. That was easy enough seeing as how she was already in Hogsmeade. He took her over here and dragged you across the passage to Hogwarts and threw you into your dormitory. Any minute now, with his three children in the mouth of danger, Harry Potter will stroll on in here and we may finally get down to what really matters instead of beating around the bush.”

Albus was silent, taking this all in, his arm tightly around Lily. Lily was taking this ordeal much better than Albus was. She stayed close beside him, still waiting for the door to open and Incommodo to walk in. Hagrid’s roar was sounding outside as cracks were heard. The sounds of Apparating. It sounded as if Hagrid had won. They could vaguely hear Mark’s voice muffled from the door, signaling he was still alive. Soto nodded, “It seems Incommodo has no intention of killing him. Potter, before he comes walking in here, you will have to tell me the Prophecy dictated to you. Failure to do so will of course have the consequences discussed before.”

“Hagrid is”-

“Hagrid,” Soto interrupted. “Will be going to the Hogs Head, lest the kids stay in danger.” Soto talked so calmly now, as if treading carefully now Albus had stopped yelling. Still, Albus sensed the malice in his voice. He was not bluffing and still intended to kill if he did not get his way. Albus was so close to getting everyone out of there alive. Albus bit his lip before he recited the Prophecy as he heard it, word for word as if he had only heard it a few seconds ago.

“Light shall fall on a sea of darkness! Darkness flows into the purest of hearts! Darkness shall prove the flower’s bane! Darkness guards the sea of light. The snake binds the eagle’s talon, the eagle atop the roaring lion, the lion’s roar’s resounding cry, the badger no longer within the earth! A weapon as true as the bravest coward, a dwelling fit for a King crumbling down! Light shall fall… on a sea… of darkness…”

Though Albus revealed the contents of a prophecy, for some unexplained reason, he did not feel guilty. As he recited it, something told him it was a good thing Soto knew. Why, Albus was not sure. But he hoped Soto could make light of it better than Harry did. He nodded slowly in understand but before he could do anything, a resounding crash sounded just behind them. Albus gasped as the giant mass stood in the doorway, having smashed down the wall in his entrance. Soto jumped and instinctively fired a Stunning spell.

Hagrid just stood as a guard, letting it bounce off his chest and he grunted, “Yer way in over yer head, Soto. Harry Potter’s on his way.”

“Good,” Soto shrugged. “But you’ve come too late for the feast my big-boned man. We were just discussing the Prophecy.” The way Soto said it, knowing Hagrid would allow curiosities to get the better of him, he had no fear even as Hagrid loomed over him threateningly. “Mr. Potter here just had the courtesy of reciting to me the words.”

“Wha’”-

Albus went red and looked down. Lily still had her arm around him, as if trying to tell him he had nothing to feel guilty for but in truth, if Albus had not thought Hagrid was making for the Hogs Head, he would have kept his silence. With Hagrid here and Harry on his way, there was no chance Soto would win this night. Why did he appear so easy?

“Albus- wha’”-

“Mr. Potter here was so worried about his family, he was willing to brave the unknown to save their lives,” Soto laughed.

Hagrid had heard enough. He raised his pink umbrella to Soto but the man was faster, “Expelliarmus!”

Albus thought the spell would glance off uselessly like the other did but his umbrella flipped off and landed in Soto’s outstretched hand, with his wand on it, “One step towards me and your umbrella is destroyed. If it’s the last piece of Hogwarts… or of Dumbledore you hold on to, you’ll do well to sit down and listen. Listen to my interpretation of the Prophecy.”

Hagrid froze, also seemingly surprised that the spell managed to disarm him. “You won’t get outta this alive, Lean.”

“I am aware of that,” Soto mused. “I’m surrounded by a half-giant, three students and a runaway Head of Education. Things are horrible for me. Consider these my last words. You two are definitely the type to listen anyway. What this Prophecy means is of dark and light, for the first time working together to defeat a greater enemy. Though the darkness destroys that which is innocent, represented by the flower, the light keeps it in check. The two will work to protect the Heirs of the four Hogwarts founders… and one more. Merlin’s last descendent.

“We know of Ravenclaw, I am close to finding Gryffindor, your father knows who Merlin’s heir is, I know how Slytherin may yet play significance though his last known heir was killed in the second war. Prophecies do have a way of working out. Hufflepuff… is a mystery. I may not be mistaken in assuming the Heir has already entered Hogwarts. The five must band together and face off against someone far more powerful. No, not Incommodo. Worst. You met them once.” He nodded at the wide eyes as they remembered clearly the reservation beyond the forest, and the dangerous old man heading them all. Soto was their ally. Now, he was speaking as if they were a common enemy. “There is a great force threatening Hogwarts, the Ministry, the entire British Wizarding world and next the rest of the world. Unfortunately, Hogwarts will be the first to fall. It is happening as we speak in fact.”

Albus and Lily widened their eyes and caught each other’s eyes for just a second. Soto smirked, “If you believe you saved your friends by sending them to Hogwarts, I believe you are gravely mistaken. Know only no one there should end up dead for reasons you will learn soon enough. You will soon see why I require… a teaching job in Hogwarts. As I tried using you to get Phoenix to understand, I am the final piece of the puzzle. Despite our enmity and mutual dislike for the other’s policies, if he fails on handing me a post for teaching the Dark Arts, he will be indirectly responsible for the world’s destruction. But he is like me. With him at the helms, he is plenty more likely to jump on board.”

“No student… wants to learn the Dark Arts,” Hagrid growled at him.

“I believe the majority of those in Slytherin will disagree,” Soto disagreed. “Even some in the other houses may find it fascinating enough. The Dark Arts is like a magnet. It attracts everyone, especially the young, even those who claim to despise it. Only those who fear the Dark Arts will choose to blindly avoid them. And you, Mr. Potter, as the darkness in the prophecy will be wise to embrace those very Arts.”

“Darkness?” Lily asked, the first time she spoke up to Soto and she put a very brave tone up as she mounted a defense for her older brother. “Al is the light. He’s done nothing but good, looking after Mark, he even came over here to make sure everyone got out safely. He gave you everything you wanted! He handed you more than you asked for. Just to save his family.”

Soto had started laughing halfway through Lily’s defense. “He is the darkness, Miss Potter. Do you know what he offered me in exchange for your freedom? He gave his greatest enemy, the first enemy the Wizarding world has known since the Dark Lord, the information he sought, he handed him a Prophecy, and he is bartering with a map of Hogwarts to reveal everyone in the castle. He’s handing me the keys to your destruction. And you think he is of the light?” he challenged to Hagrid’s shock. “No, your brother is of the darkness. He makes shady deals now. And one day, he will prove it to us. One day, Mr. Potter, when all else fails, you will have no choice but to turn to the Dark Arts. You are the one who can listen to reason. Join me, Mr. Potter. Let us convince your father together when he arrives. Embrace the Dark Arts. Do not fight them. And soon enough, you will gain enough power to be the hero your father never was. A hero to surpass your own father! The bane of the Dark Lord… would be outshone by a mere teenager!”

Albus shook his head, quite frankly, without considering the offer. But Soto continued grinning, “One day, you will be forced to accept my offer. You cannot afford to say no forever. Power over your friends and family. Join me… and everyone you know and love would have the greatest protection anyone could grant them. All I ask- is your allegiance in convincing your father from his views. He must listen.”

The room was quiet. Seth had just come back, folding his arms as he leaned against the doorway. He too watched Albus intently and interestedly. Now, Albus had to consider. It was tempting, saving everyone’s lives, protecting them, being the beacon of light for the entire family, outshining even Harry, Alexis admiring him. Alexis. She would never find that amusing.

“If this alone is not enough, know that thanks to your previous visit to the reservation, there lies a curse within you. A powerful piece of Dark Magic. If I am not mistaken, it is a piece of the Dark Lord himself.”

Albus was confused. A Horcrux?

“It’s not what you think it is,” Soto shook his head intently. “But it can still act. It has already. It tried killing you before. Yes, Mr. Potter,” Soto added as a sudden realization came over Albus. He was the Jinx. Albus himself. Damn, Lucy was right. He was the Jinx. A curse inside him Jinxed the broom through him. “That curse nearly had you killed, nearly had Miss Ackerly killed, and nearly disrupted everything. Through you, Mr. Potter, through the power of the Reservation, the Dark Lord even in death is still dangerous. You were the Jinx. And that is why your idiot teachers will find no Jinx at all in any broom. Though there are ways to keep the curse in check, it requires a painful process you may not survive. Your allegiance may guarantee your survival and the survival of those around you.”

Soto stared at Albus hungrily. Lily and Seth stared too. Albus stood rooted to the spot, deep in thought. In the end of the day, I am influenced by the Dark Arts. I am fascinated by their invincibility, their power. They have taught me so much through Defense, but to actually learn them…

“Outshine my father?”

“Hah, Albus outshine me… inevitable,” a voice said from the doorway. A sudden warmth filled Albus as he spun around. Lily gasped in relief. He was saved. They were all saved. Harry Potter was standing there, wide grin on his face, wand pointing straight at Soto’s heart but his eyes on Albus and Lily.