Chapter 28 The Hogwarts Guard

The Goblin’s Amulet

Chapter 28: The Hogwarts Guard

Albus snapped awake with a deep breath. He felt like someone had given him an electric shock to force him awake. And when he saw from the corner of his eye Madam Pomfrey and a man in a Healer’s uniform, he thought that was probably what happened. He exhaled and shut his eyes again, intent on going back to sleep when his eyes snapped awake again. He had just remembered Mark and Lily and made to turn his head but Madam Pomfrey stretched her hands out and kept it in place firmly, refusing to let it move an inch.

This action of course only worried Albus more. Was she stopping him from seeing their bodies or was she simply being protective of her patients as usual? He could not tell. She looked back and sighed, “Mr. Wallader and your sister are”-

The door opened up and she quickly fed him a small dose of a Potion before turning around to greet the arrival. Albus turned his head but his sight disappeared. Madam Pomfrey had blinded him. There was no doubt then, she had something to keep from him. He shut his eyes, willing tears not to spill out. He needed to listen instead to anything the arrivals were talking about. What had happened?

He could hear Professor Phoenix’s voice. He was speaking as the door opened up. Explaining something to someone. Then, to Albus’ slight surprise, (that he didn’t guess this earlier) his dad’s voice sounded, “Is Albus ok?”

“He’s fine,” Phoenix assured him and Albus’ thoughts started working. Harry asked about Albus only, he did not ask about Lily or Mark. That meant that their fate had already been determined. If Harry’s tone was any indication, they had to be fine.

“Is he awake?” Ginny’s voice sounded quietly.

“I’ll check,” Teddy’s voice volunteered. Albus started light breathing, hoping he would be left alone. He could sense through his eyelids Teddy Lupin staring. Albus just noticed. There were excess tears in his own eyes still. Teddy knew. He knew Albus was awake. To Albus’ relief, “Leave him alone. He’s asleep. I’ll just leave the note on his bedside.”

“What about our Lorcy?” a worried voice asked.

Albus recognized that one easily, but he never heard it in that tone before. It was Luna. He guessed her husband was with her then. He always was. Phoenix sighed. Albus wished he could block his own ears without anyone noticing, but he knew it was impossible. Lorcan? What had happened? Soto had said that Hogwarts was unsafe. That his friends back at school were in danger. What had happened?

“Lorcan… we- sir, ma’am, I do not know what will become of your son,” Phoenix said honestly. “I’ve never seen anyone like this before, and I’ve witnessed Vampire bite effects. Either he dies or goes into a vampire. I must say that Mr. Blackberry is examining him before I can say for sure.”

Harry and Luna stayed with Phoenix as Ginny seemed to have walked further into the room. Albus was not sure and maybe he was being too hopeful, but with his dad acting normal, Lily had to be safe. Alive. If Lily had died… no, he told himself. Hugo would be in the room too and his cries would be heard. Lily had to be safe.

“Congratulations Potter on being reinstated,” Phoenix continued. “I heard what you did in the Shrieking shack.”

“What Shrieking shack?” Harry said expressionlessly. “It was destroyed.”

“The Goblins, apparently hold more power than I realized,” Phoenix agreed. “I do not know or understand why the Purifiers saved your lives but you seem to have taken full credit.”

“Just as Soto wanted,” Harry breathed. “He’s trying very hard to gain trust.”

“With enemies like the Goblins, Potter, it may be advisable to take him up on his offer,” Phoenix suggested.

There was a silence as Harry pondered those words. Albus strained his ears to hear anything from anyone else, something that may tell him what had ultimately happened. The wait was unbearable. He needed to know. Even if he had assured himself Lily was fine, what about Mark? Hagrid? Hagrid had fallen on top of Albus. Had he died at that point? Had Mark died? Aries? Any of those lives might warrant silence from Harry himself till the appropriate time. His reaction could only assure Albus that his immediate children were safe.

Just when Albus had begun to think that Phoenix and Harry left, Harry spoke again, his voice shaking so Albus was almost grateful his eyes were useless. He did not want to have to see the state Harry was in based on the voice, “I hold him responsible for what transpired tonight.”

After another silence, Phoenix sighed, “Don’t brood too much on it, Potter. I know you’ve suffered a great loss and no doubt the entirety of Hogwarts school will be effected by this. The time for mourning is not now.”

“I suppose we’re facing Goblin rebellion then?” Harry asked before his voice broke.

“Hard to say,” Phoenix answered. “With their Amulet gone again…”

“It was returned to the place it last was,” Harry said matter-of-factly. “Where that place is, I cannot say for sure but it will not be in a Gringotts vault.”

The place it was last. So, the Goblins lost their Amulet. So many questions raced through Albus’ mind and only one conclusion. He had to get back to the Room of Requirement. Before he could think further, Madam Pomfrey forced another Potion down Albus’ throat. He felt a burning sensation before he was forced asleep once again. A part of him was crying out loud now, knowing that Madam Pomfrey was doing everything she could to delay what Albus was going to find out eventually. When he finally woke up, his eyesight back, he chanced a quick look to his left, heart pounding.

All curtains were closed. He could see no one. He was seriously considering getting up and checking by himself when he heard a throat clear to his left. He gasped as he looked. Standing by his bed, loyally and waiting were who had to be the greatest friends of his life. Scorpius looked relieved to see him awake, Laura standing right beside her boyfriend, Hugo had a small yet sad smile as if bursting to say something to Albus, but the one beside him, settling his fears down a great deal were Mark and Lily. Mark had a white bandage running across his forehead and his arm was in a sling, Lily was sitting down, clearly unable to walk. It was probably only through Hugo’s assistance and her own insistence that she was there by his bed at all. Probably done only to ease Albus’ worries.

But the next best sight was behind them. Rose was standing behind Hugo, her arm on his shoulder. He seemed to have sustained an injury too but they were minor. Standing behind Rose, leaning against the wall but smiling at him through the darkness, perfectly content with watching was Alexis Ackerly. She gave him a quick nod and walked out, rubbing her eyes in tiredness, like she stayed up just to make sure he was ok.

But Albus’ desire to please Alexis seemed like an age ago. His more pressing problems came first and foremost. “Are you ok?” Rose asked calmly. “You had… my side of the family worried sick.”

“Tell- tell your side of the family I’m fine,” Albus yawned as Hugo and Scorpius took Lily by the arm and helped her back to her bed.

Rose nodded and looked apologetic, “I- I promised Alex that I’d wake him and Eric if you woke up so…”

“Yeah, go tell them,” Albus nodded glumly.

“Hugo, off to bed,” Rose demanded.

“What? No way!” he whispered as Lily covered herself again.

“Mum and dad will be upset if you”-

“I don’t care,” Hugo whispered through gritted teeth. “I’m staying with Lily!”

“I’ll stay with Lily,” Scorpius offered.

“Oh, great that makes me feel so much better,” Hugo said with bitter sarcasm as he was forced to walk with Rose.

“Be nice,” she told him frankly.

“Yes, mum,” Hugo said sarcastically, bitterness in his voice apparent though Albus could not imagine why Hugo seemed so on edge. He’d been without Lily for an extended period of time before, and she was fine. Hugo had no reason to be so on edge, especially if someone offered to stay on his behalf. Albus settled with the theory that Hugo simply disliked Scorpius.

“What’s got into his pants?” Mark asked.

“Well, that’s obvious,” a voice said from the doorway and in walked James. It had been a while since Albus had a direct talk with James so he was kind of welcome. Then, Albus remembered the map. It was destroyed in the fire. Did James know?

Mark looked at James questioningly and James sat down on Albus’ bed, wide mischievous grin on his face, “I am the eyes and ears of this place. I hear things no one else does. I see things everyone else is blind too. And I know what’s bothering Hugo…”

“What?” Mark pressed.

“Tell you later,” James shrugged and he went serious again. “How’re you doing, Al? Ok?”

“Fine,” Albus mumbled. “No one’s telling me what happened. Madam Pomfrey stopped me from turning my head. What”-

“I’ll say it,” James shrugged as Mark went off to sit with Lily. “There was one point where we thought Lily might have died. Hugo was in shock and just when dad walked into the grounds, she woke up. She can barely walk but… she’s up.”

“How’s Hagrid, Seth and Aries?” Albus asked silently.

This was when James was stumped. He knew the answer, certainly but was not looking forward to giving it away. Albus could tell one of them had died. He gritted his teeth and said, “Seth woke up in minutes. Sleeping now. Aries on the other hand is home. Her parents pulled her out. I think she’ll be back for exams though.”

“And Hagrid?”

“Al”-

Albus’ heart dropped. No. No way. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t. A part of him knew it had happened. Ever since he woke up, a part of him knew, remembered the giant mass falling on top of him, having taken the brunt of the attack. The blast by the Goblins was strong enough to knock those behind Hagrid out cold. The odds of Hagrid surviving were slim when he stood to take the brunt of the blast.

“Wh-when- how- how”- and Albus burst into tears. He knew Scorpius was watching and he knew Lily was still there but he could hardly help it.

James took him in and hugged him tightly, holding his own sadness back. For Albus’ sake, not only was James staying strong, Harry was too and even Lily. But it was a hard hit. His mind was moaning, no, no, no, Not Hagrid. Not Hagrid. Anyone but Hagrid. But Albus bit his tongue. Both Lily and Mark, the two he had set out this year to protect were both fine. But the cost… he never considered there might be a cost to pay for protecting those he loved. “Trust me, Al, no one is as hard hit as dad is right now,” James said quietly. “He knew Hagrid better than all of us. He was the last piece of this castle still tied to the Headmaster dad had and… he was the one teacher that actually understood students.”

Albus felt hands on his shoulders and Mark embracing him from behind. Albus had just remembered. Mark. “Hagrid is… he’s the one responsible for… he…”

“He stopped us fighting,” Mark realized in sync with Albus. “Al…” and Mark seemed broken too, tears leaking down his face as he too remembered the gruff half giant in the hut by the forest, responsible for protecting Hogwarts, was the Keeper of the grounds… Hagrid alone knew the school, had grown up in the school, lived there longer than anyone in memory.

James pulled himself off Albus and looked concernedly, “You alright?”

Albus shook his head. He stopped crying but the news was still hitting hard. He knew he would lose sleep over this. And he also knew he needed to talk to his dad. And despite everything, this had without a doubt been Albus’ worst year ever. He had tried so hard to protect Lily, he never for a second thought someone else might die protecting all of them, he never even considered the fact that Lily, as Albus learned recently when facing the Goblins, was very capable of looking after herself as well as others. And throughout the whole year, there was no friend to keep him company. He thought second year would have been unbearable without Alexis but this…

James moved on to Lily’s bed and Mark took Albus’ back, taking care of him. Albus was not fully with him but he slowly remembered Mark’s terrible words in the Room of Requirement, before they had left. Then, Mark spoke, “Al, I’m sorry for what I said. I was… way out of line.”

“You said something… terrible,” Albus said in a very low voice. “You didn’t even care about Lily.”

“I did,” Mark insisted quietly. “But… I was terrified what would happen if you… if you…”

“You never cared,” Albus muttered. “You prove it all the time. You barely cared when Lily was… when Hagrid…”

“Al!” Mark said angrily, folding his arms. “I’m trying to apologize, here. You’re making that very difficult and in case you forget…” his eyes shone now. “Hagrid… he… it’s an insult to his memory for us to ever fight again because”- Mark was blubbering now. “He- he brought us together. He got us talking. He’s responsible for everything, damn it! Why?” He threw himself into Albus, sobbing hard.

Albus had never seen Mark this way before. He seemed completely broken, depressed, and after the incident in the shack, something must’ve snapped within him. Something holding Mark together, keeping him sane had been weakened. And Albus smiled in spite of himself. He knew Mark was sincere, truly sorry for what he had said. They’d all been on an emotional high, Mark as well as Albus and Hugo. “Alright, Mark. I accept your apology.”

Mark was not finished though. He kept his head on Albus, unable to break away for another minute when he finally calmed down enough to say, “I wish it was me,” he muttered over Albus’ shoulder. “I’d… g-gladly trade places with him.”

They had not realized it but dawn broke. The first light flitted into the room. The first visitor to the Hospital wing was Professor Era. She walked in with a phial of sky blue liquid. She set it on Albus’ bedside, paying no attention to Albus and said, “The Healers recommend you drink a phial of this every day until a more permanent solution can be found to the curse inside you,” she said frankly. “It will hold whatever Curse is inside you at bay. No forgetting. I shall be making a cauldron full of this each month and send its phials over the summer. Next year, you will be expected down in my office each day to take the phial without fail to keep your health. Understood?”

“Y-Yes Professor,” Albus whispered, not speaking aloud.

No sooner had he taken the phial did Otto Blackberry open the door followed by his sons. He snapped the curtains to Lorcan’s body open where Lysander sat. Lysander seemed expressionless, like he did not yet know how to react to the situation. Otto turned to a leaving Era, “I trust he had the Potion.”

“He did,” Era answered as she walked out.

Otto nodded, “I’ll do the rest. Need your help, Nate. We’re almost there.” The kid was staring up at the ceiling, as if dead but Albus knew he was barely alive. From what he got from Era and Otto, the vampire venom in his system was being kept at bay and this put him in a deathlike state. Otto spun round to face Nate, “Shut the curtains. This won’t be pretty. Now, do exactly as I say. It may pain poor Scamander, so you two will have to hold him down. Riley, hold the poison at bay again. Nate, hold him down. Scamander,” Otto turned to Lysander. “You will have to leave for now. Nate, shut the curtains I said.”

“Yes father,” Nate said breathlessly, and shut the curtains, hiding Lorcan from Albus’ view. Lorcan was still alive. But… for how much longer? And would this save Lorcan from the venom? Even if it did, would he die? Would he go the same way Hagrid went? The best guard Hogwarts had. The guard who took Harry Potter in to the Wizarding world, guarded him throughout his journey, only to meet his demise and at the hands of Goblins no less.

The note left on Albus’ bedside spoke even more to the situation and it made both Albus and Lily tear up as they read it.

“Death: ‘Death is but the next great adventure.’ Albus Dumbledore. Your namesake. No one knows precisely what happens when you die but I believe, you are faced with a choice, standing at a gateway. You can either decide to go back, and you will reenter the world as a spirit form, a ghost, or you go on and die. I found myself at Kings Cross, and I went back. For me, I came back physical and solid, because the love I possessed from my mother allowed it to happen. You won’t have that luck. If I had decided to die for real, I would’ve been ‘boarding a train.’

Most people decide to move on, and take the next adventure. I will move on. Your choice is entirely up to you, but if I know you, you’ll move on too, like me, and I’ll be waiting for you with open arms.”