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Chapter 11 : The Fate of the Pranksters
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Albus was very relieved that he was not given the task of telling James that there would not be a rematch. Fred, being the captain, took that job for himself and the rest of the team merely went with him. James was understandably upset, but didn't take the news nearly as badly as Albus would have expected. Perhaps he was maturing, if even a small amount. On Sunday, James was released from the Hospital Wing and life at Hogwarts returned to normal if only for a few days.
After a double class of potions and single class of Transfiguration on Tuesday, Albus and his friends had politics and this was the day where they would find out who would get to sit in the Great Hall during the debate on Saturday. The Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs were understandably more talkative in the minutes before Professor Embry began class. Most of the students hoped that they would get to attend the debate, with the exception of John and a few of the Hufflepuffs. Albus and Matt would be attending it either way, so they doubted either of them would be picked. Rose had also found out that since she was Percy's niece, she would also get to attend no matter what.
“Settle down, settle down,” Embry said once the clock struck three. He smiled and then quickly took attendance. “I'm very happy to see how excited you are for Saturday's debate. It's very exciting to see young people so interested in politics. Since I know none of you will pay attention during class unless I announce who gets to attend before I begin, I will announce them now.”
The class immediately began whispering until Embry located a piece of parchment on his desk and cleared his throat. “Now, a few of you are able to attend the debate without being chosen. Matt Eckerton and Albus Potter, since both your fathers are heads of departments at the Ministry you will be able to attend. Rose Weasley, since you are related to one of the candidates, you may attend as well. And not to worry, everyone else, they will not take away spots from the regular student body.
“One boy and one girl were picked randomly from each year, for each house. So eight students from each year were chosen total. For Hufflepuff the lucky two are Olivia Price and Ronald Bones.”
“Yes!” Ronald shouted. He was a rather loud, blonde haired boy, who reminded Albus a lot of Kaden. Olivia just smiled. She was quiet, but as one of Hufflepuff's Beaters, was quite forceful.
“And for Gryffindor we have Ethan Kesse and Marina Jordan-Bell,” Embry continued.
Both let out ecstatic shouts and the rest of the class clapped before everyone settled down. All four winning students were still grinning when Embry began speaking once more.
“Congratulations to all four of you. This will not be the only debate to take place at Hogwarts and for the next one, different students will be chosen. Now, on Saturday, you are to report to the Great Hall at ten o'clock in the morning. The debate will begin at eleven. You will give your name to whichever professor is waiting by the doors and then a Prefect will show you to where you are supposed to sit. Same goes for you, Matt, Albus, and Rose.”
Embry set the parchment down on his desk and smiled as he walked closer to the tables of his students. “Now, what Professor Kendrick has not told you yet, because it has only just been finalized, is that both candidates will be hosting two joint question and answer sessions. These will be for students and Hogwarts staff only. The same students chosen to attend the debate will be able to attend the question and answer session. It will take place at three in the Great Hall. Please arrive at two-thirty.
“Everyone else will be listening to the debate on the wireless. Fourth year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs will be in the Transfiguration classroom. Please report there by ten-thirty. Everyone, no matter whether they are attending the debate or listening on the wireless are expected to write a foot long essay on which candidate you thought was more successful in making their point. It will be due at the beginning of next week's class.”
The entire class groaned at the mention of the essay. Embry ignored this and began his lecture. They had finally made it into the twentieth century, but were still far from learning about how everything in the Ministry changed after Voldemort was defeated.
The rest of the week passed very slowly. The Hogwarts students were getting very excited at the prospect of the candidates arriving for their debate, with the exception of Bradley and Cedric. Even John and Kaden, neither of whom were going to attend the debate, were catching a little bit of excitement. Albus was rather shocked at how the majority of the students were getting involved with the election. Being someone who had grown up with politics and the Ministry of Magic, he was not quite as thrilled with the prospect, especially when reporters from the Daily Prophet showed up on Friday morning.
“Want to take bets on how quickly they find you?” John asked as they passed two reporters on their way to Care of Magical Creatures.
Albus glanced at the reporters. One was a very tall and lanky man, with messy brown hair and considerable stubble on his face. He was frantically writing down questions that the other reporter, an equally tall woman with huge red lips and black hair, was asking an uncomfortable looking first year.
“Walk faster,” Albus nudged John as they neared the oak doors.
Albus had absolutely no desire to appear in any issues of the Daily Prophet. Neither of his parents liked reporters and that was a trait they had passed down to Albus. He made a mental note to warn Bradley and Cedric about them the next time he saw his two cousins.
In an effort to avoid the reporters, Albus, Matt, and John spent their free period after charms in the Marauder's Den. With any luck when the Ministry officials arrived the reporters would give up trying to interview random Hogwarts students. Although Albus knew it was not random at all. At lunch, after Care of Magical Creatures, he found out that no less than four of his cousins, along with Lily, had been interviewed that morning.
The officials were arriving just as Albus and his friends were heading to the Great Hall for dinner. They paused on the grand staircase while the blue-robed witches and wizards entered the Great Hall, gracefully avoiding the reporters that were standing next to the entrance to the Great Hall. Albus recognized nearly all of them, including his dad, Uncle Percy, and Matt's dad.
The Staff table had been magically elongated enough to offer seats for all of the Ministry officials, who had at sat down and began speaking with the professors. Albus and his friends all found seats at the Gryffindor table, near all his cousins. Cedric was scowling while reading a letter. He then crumpled it up and then set fire to it with his wand.
“Dad still thinks we pulled that prank, James,” Cedric muttered. “Says he's going to make time to speak with me before he leaves.”
“We'll find out,” James said. “We still haven't talked to all the ghosts.”
“All except Moaning Myrtle.” Cedric shuddered. “I don't fancy talking to her.”
“She's our last hope,” James said. “We're going to find her. After all this debate stuff is over.”
Albus let out a sigh of relief. He had two more days. In all honesty, he'd nearly forgotten about Cedric and James's quest to find out who put the chickens in the Slytherin common room. But apparently his brother and cousin had not.
Kendrick rose from his seat once the Great Hall was full. “On behalf of myself, the rest of the Hogwarts staff, and the Hogwarts student body, I'd like to welcome our Ministry representatives to Hogwarts. Before we eat, I'd like to introduce everyone.
“First, our candidates,” Kendrick gestured to Percy and Laurentis, who were both sitting immediately to his left. “Percy Weasley and Patricia Laurentis.” Kendrick then gestured to the tall, rather portly man on his left. “Our current Minister, Langston Hartwell.”
The rest of the officials were interspersed amongst the professors. Kendrick gestured to a grey haired witch sitting in between Professors Patil and Cedonia. “Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Reena Barnes.” Next, Kendrick gestured to Matt's dad who was sitting next to Albus's dad and Professor Trelawney. “Head of the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures. Walter Eckerton.”
Half the Gryffindor table turned and looked at Matt, who gave a smile and shrugged. Never one to talk about his family, most of Gryffindor was unaware of who Matt's dad was.
“I'm sure you all remember Harry Potter, head of the Auror Department,” Kendrick said as he gestured to Albus's dad. He received louder applause than anyone else had.
Kendrick then introduced three of Hartwell's other advisors, who had titles that were just as long and confusing as Percy's current job title. Then, finally, Kendrick waved his hands and food appeared on all the tables.
During dinner Fred announced that he had reluctantly canceled Quidditch practice for the next day since it was scheduled for the same time as the question and answer session. The rest of dinner was spent figuring out which Gryffindors, besides the large amount that were related to Percy, were going to attend the debate. Both John's little sister, Asthyn, and James's best friend, Nathan, were getting to attend.
After dessert had been served and consumed, Kendrick reminded everyone of the time of the next day's debate and suggested they all turn in early. Albus wondered whether the ministry officials would be staying in the castle or Apparating back to their own homes for the night. Cedric took off for the common room as soon as he had finished eating, in order to avoid his father.
Albus and his friends decided to stay in the common room that night since everyone was so lively and the excitement was catching. John brought a deck of Exploding Snap down from his trunk and the six friends sat around a table playing for at least an hour. Kaden had just had the cards explode in his face when the door to the common room opened and someone gasped.
Everyone glanced over and the common room went silent. Percy was standing in the doorway, looking very awkward and uncomfortable. His eyes landed on Cedric, who had been organizing his stock of Skiving Snackboxes with James and Nathan. Cedric went as pale as Moaning Myrtle.
“Cedric,” Percy said quietly. “I need to speak with you.”
“I didn't do it, Dad!” Cedric exclaimed. “I swear it!”
Albus shifted uncomfortably in his seat, glancing at his friends. Rose was giving him a disapproving look while Matt, John, and Kaden looked equally uncomfortable. Amanda had raised her eyebrows. This was ridiculous. Why couldn't Percy let it go or believe his son? Or at least deal with it privately? It was unfair of him to storm into the Gryffindor common room and call out his own son like that.
Percy shook his head. “Cedric, you've pulled pranks like this ever since you were little. This one has you written all over it. You, too, James.”
“No buts,” Percy said. “This is not acceptable. Now I'd like to speak with you privately.”
Cedric didn't budge. Albus swallowed hard and looked at Matt, John, and Kaden each in turn. Pranks were all in good fun, but not when innocent people were punished for them. And Albus had no doubt that Percy would punish Cedric whether he had proof or not. Cedric's past betrayed him and Percy was too focused on winning the election to give his son the benefit of the doubt. Albus did not like his cousin taking the fall for something he and his friends did. It just was not something he was comfortable with.
Matt gave a slight nod of his head. John and Kaden both shrugged and Albus took that to mean “do what you have to do”. Albus sighed and stood up. “Wait, Uncle Percy.”
“Albus, this is none of your concern,” Percy said. “Cedric has to face his consequences.”
“But he didn't do it!” Albus exclaimed. “It was me. I did it.”
James burst out laughing. “You, Al? That's nice and all of you to try and keep Cedric out of trouble, but really? You couldn't get into the Slytherin common room.”
“It wasn't only him,” John said, standing up. “Kaden and I did most of it. Al was just a look out.”
“I was, too,” Matt announced. “It was the four of us.”
Fred and a few of his friends suddenly jumped up from their seats and bowed in front of Albus, Matt, John, and Kaden. “Masters! You are the kings.”
The entire common room exploded in applause and whistles. Albus couldn't help but grin despite the fact that he knew he was going to be in trouble. James gave Albus an odd look before breaking out in a wry grin himself. A few first years ran up and high-fived them. Hugo was practically rolling on the floor laughing.
“Enough, enough!” Percy shouted. “Albus, you'd better come with me. You three as well.” He gestured to Matt, John, and Kaden.
Albus and his friends reluctantly followed Percy out of the common room to Kendrick's study. On the way there Albus couldn't help but notice that his uncle didn't really walk. He strutted, almost like he owned the place. Albus supposed he was remembering back to his Head Boy days. Head Boy was probably now well out of reach for Albus, as was becoming a Prefect. Not like he really wanted to become a Prefect anyway.
Upon entering Kendrick's study Albus was horrified to see that all of the Ministry officials were there, including his own father. Matt had paled considerably on seeing his father as well. This was bad.
Kendrick glanced at the boys and then looked questioningly up at Percy. “I think we need a moment of privacy,” Kendrick said to the officials, “except Harry and Walter.”
The rest of the officials left the room, whispering to themselves as they went. Kendrick then resumed his seat behind his desk and conjured enough chairs for the remaining people. Albus took a seat in between Matt and Kaden.
“What's going on, Percy?” Kendrick asked.
“I went to Gryffindor to have a chat with my son about that prank last week and as it turns out he was telling the truth.” Albus was pleased to see that Percy looked slightly ashamed. “As I was asking Cedric for a private talk, my nephew and his friends announced that they were the pranksters.”
“They what?” Harry exclaimed, looking at Albus. “Is this about the chickens in the Slytherin common room prank?”
“Yes,” Percy confirmed. “These four just confessed to it.”
Matt's dad let out a sigh and shook his head.
“Is this true, boys?” Kendrick asked.
“Yes, sir,” Albus replied.
“I'm very disappointed in you, Albus,” Harry said. “This is the sort of thing I expect from James, not from you.”
“As am I in you, Matthew,” Walter added. “You've never been one to pull pranks.”
“It was our idea,” John said, gesturing to himself and Kaden. “All they did was keep a look out while we were in their common room.”
“Nevertheless,” Kendrick said, folding his hands on his desk. “All four of you broke school rules and you will be punished. Fifty points from Gryffindor-”
“-each,” Kendrick finished. “And detention. As much as I'd like to start your detention tomorrow we have other matters happening in this castle and none of the staff is free to supervise. You will start your detention on Monday evening and you will have it for a week.”
“But sir-” Albus and Matt said at once.
“No buts,” Kendrick said. “You blatantly broke multiple school rules.”
“But Quidditch and dueling! That's the week before the first tournament-”
“Your teams will have to hold practice without you, Mr. Potter,” Kendrick said shortly. “You should have thought about that before you participated in this mischief.”
“Sir?” Matt asked quietly.
Kendrick sighed. “Yes?”
“The, er, full moon is Tuesday,” Matt muttered.
“Right,” Kendrick replied. “Attend the detentions that you can and whichever ones you miss can be made up once you are better.
“Thank you,” Walter said, “for being understanding about that.”
“Not a problem. Matt's situation is vastly different from missed Quidditch practice.”
Albus felt his cheeks reddening. It had been a valid point for him. Fred would murder him in his sleep when he found out Albus would miss at least two practices for detention. He certainly wouldn't be applauding and bowing anymore.
“You'll report to Filch's office on Monday at seven. He'll give you further instructions on what your detention will entail. Now, get back to Gryffindor Tower,” Kendrick said.
Albus rose from his seat. Harry did the same. “Al, you realize I'm going to have to tell your mother about this.”
Albus nodded. “Yes.”
“She won't be pleased. But I do want to tell you that I'm proud of the way you owned up to this when you realized Cedric was wrongfully accused. As disappointed as I am that you pulled that prank, I am very happy to have such an honest son. I'll see you tomorrow. Have a good night and remember, I always love you,” Harry said and gave Albus a hug.
“Love you too,” Albus said quietly.
Matt was having what was surely a similar talk with his own father and once they were finished, the four boys left Kendrick's study and went immediately back to Gryffindor Tower.
“Seven detentions,” John muttered as they walked up a set of stairs. “Seven. This is worse than that time in second year when we were caught near the Whomping Willow.”
“Not to mention the points,” Albus replied.
“And detention with Filch no less,” Matt said. “I'll be doing at least two of them on my own, too.”
Kaden shrugged. “Still seems worth it.”
John grinned. “Most definitely worth it.”
Albus and Matt gave each other looks that clearly meant they disagreed. No, 200 points from Gryffindor, seven detentions with Filch, and no Quidditch practice for a week was not worth it.
In true Hogwarts fashion by the next morning at Breakfast the entire school knew that it had been three Gryffindor fourth years and one Gryffindor third year that had managed to sneak into the Slytherin common room and deposit two chickens and a rooster, as well as cover the entire place in bird seed. Hufflepuff was especially excited about this because Gryffindor's loss of 200 points put them in the lead for the House Cup. Gryffindor was now dead last and the other Gryffindors were torn between their awe of Albus and his friends and their horror that the prank had cost them so many points.
Rose and Amanda had burst out laughing when the boys told them their fate the previous night. They were angry about the loss of points, though. Rose was especially disgusted by John and Kaden's lack of remorse.
All the ministry officials were at the staff table, whereas the house tables were not nearly as full as the previous day. It seemed that some students had not heeded Kendrick's suggestion about going to bed early.
There was a whoosh of wings and Albus looked up to see that the post owls had arrived. His heart started beating faster and he swallowed hard upon seeing his mother's owl holding a red envelope in its mouth.
“Oh no,” Albus whispered as the owl grew closer. His friends glanced up and saw the howler just as the owl was preparing for landing. It landed in front of Albus's plate of eggs and he took the howler in his hand before quickly running out of the Great Hall for the nearest bathroom.
The envelope was already hot when he arrived in the thankfully empty loo. He reluctantly opened it and the room was soon full with Ginny's high pitched shouting.
“ALBUS SEVERUS POTTER, WHAT HAS GOTTEN INTO YOU? I AM ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED TO HEAR THAT YOU WERE IN THE SLYTHERIN COMMON ROOM AND PUTTING CHICKENS IN THERE NO LESS. I DO NOT CARE THAT YOU WERE ONLY THE LOOK OUT. YOU MAY AS WELL HAVE BEEN IN THERE YOURSELF. YOU WERE BLATANTLY BREAKING MULTIPLE SCHOOL RULES INCLUDING BEING OUT OF BED AFTER HOURS.
I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED. THIS IS THE SORT OF THING I EXPECT FROM JAMES, BUT EVEN JAMES KNOWS WHEN NOT TO CROSS THE LINE. AND YOU DIDN'T JUST CROSS THE LINE. YOU JUMPED WAY OVER IT. AND TO HAVE PERCY FIND OUT ABOUT THIS WHILE HE IS AT HOGWARTS FOR A DEBATE?! YOU KNOW WE HAVE TO KEEP UP APPEARANCES IN ORDER FOR HIM TO HAVE A CHANCE AT THIS ELECTION AND THIS DOES NOT HELP.
I HIGHLY APPROVE OF THE DETENTIONS AND LOSS OF POINTS. I CANNOT SAY I WOULD BE DISAPPOINTED IF YOUR ENTIRE HOUSE WERE ANGRY WITH YOU OVER THIS. I EXPECT YOU WILL NOT DO THIS AGAIN. IF YOU DO YOU WILL HAVE MORE THAN JUST PUNISHMENT AT SCHOOL.”
The letter exploded with a brief puff of smoke. Albus stood there staring at it for a few seconds. His mother had not even mentioned how his confession had saved Cedric. There was no mention of how she was proud about his honesty, like his dad had been.
Albus heard a short laugh from behind him. He turned around and saw none other than Scorpius Malfoy leaning on one of the sinks, smirking.
“I knew it was one of you Gryffindors,” Malfoy said. “Just didn't expect it to be you lot. Didn't think you'd be smart enough to figure out our password.”
“Just shut up, Malfoy,” Albus muttered as he pushed his way past the Slytherin on his way out of the loo.
“Loved the howler, by the way.” Malfoy gave another laugh.
Albus groaned inwardly. He hoped Malfoy hadn't heard much of it, but highly doubted it. Albus took a deep breath and walked back to the Great Hall. Perhaps with the debate coming in an hour, the rest of the students would forget about the prank and the loss of points and find something new to discuss.
A/N: Big thanks to my Skype writing group. You guys are all awesome! Thanks for all the amazing reviews! The new banner was done by violet ephemera at TDA. There's a little under a week left to nominate stories for the Dobby Awards, so if you like this story, head over to the forums and nominate it! Just remember to read the rules first.
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