Albus looked at the portrait of the Fat Lady, thinking about what he would face once he crossed it. The portrait creaked open, revealing the Gryffindor common room. It seemed that the entire House was gathered in there, chattering. The moment they saw Albus entering, a blanket of silence spread over them. Albus looked at them; they stared back. After what seemed like an eternity to Albus, they all started cheering madly.
Albus was utterly speechless. They all gathered around him and lifted him onto their shoulders. Albus tried to protest, but they paid no attention.
“Let’s throw him up three times!” yelled a third year student.
“No – wait, I – listen to me, guys –” Albus stammered, but his words fell on deaf ears. He might have been talking to the ceiling for all the good it did. They all threw him up in the air. Albus yelled in fright, but much to his relief he landed back down on their hands. They threw him up in the air again and again, and at last they put him down. Slightly disoriented, Albus managed to get away from them somehow and plopped down on an armchair. However, his fellow Gryffindors gathered around him there.
“How did you do it, kid?” asked a student Albus knew was a fifth year.
“I didn’t do it, I –” Albus began, but another student cut across him.
“When did you do it?”
“I said I didn’t!” Albus was getting angry. Why didn’t they understand? He desperately needed to find his friends – and also James – to tell them everything. But would they believe him? He felt like a brick had just slid down his throat.
“You are the youngest champion so far!” said an awed fourth year.
“Guys please! I didn’t –”
“Alright, get moving, you lot!” shouted an angry voice. Albus turned and saw Victoire. Never before had he been so happy to see her. She had her hands on her hips, and the Head Girl badge on her robes gleamed in the firelight. “Leave the kid alone for a while, don’t pester him! Now scatter!” Albus thought she looked a lot like Grandma Weasley at that moment.
The crowd around him dispersed, muttering to themselves. Victoire approached him.
“Thanks,” Albus mumbled.
“Don’t mention it, Al,” she replied, smiling. “So… did you really do it?”
“Of course not!” Albus said angrily. Victoire too? “How could you even think –?”
“I had to make sure,” she interrupted. “I didn’t think you did it, though. But who did it then? Who’s got anything against you?”
Albus shrugged. “I have no idea. Did you see James and the others?”
“Yeah, James is over there,” she replied, pointing at a table opposite the fireplace. His brother was sitting in a chair, hunched over the table, apparently reading something. “Thanks,” Albus said to Victoire, and made his way towards James. He was stopped by students, but he shook them off. Finally he reached James and sat down on a chair beside him.
“Hey, James,” he said hesitatingly.
James didn’t reply. Instead he kept on reading his book. Albus looked at him. He realized that James wasn’t really reading - his eyes weren’t moving. He was just staring at one point. Albus understood that James was trying to ignore him.
“James, I didn’t do it, you know that,” Albus said, determined to make James talk to him. However, James did not say anything. He just stared at the book, which was held upside-down.
Albus got annoyed. He seized James’s shoulder and turned him around to face him. “For God’s sake, James, listen to me!” he yelled.
The room had gone quiet. No one moved or made a noise. Everyone was staring at them as though they were performing a circus act. James looked at Albus, and the younger boy thought that James looked distraught. A long silence followed.
“I don’t know what to think,” James said finally. “I just can't understand.”
“Can we talk in private?” Albus asked quietly. He didn’t like the feeling of every eye boring into him while he talked to his brother.
James nodded after a few seconds and walked towards the portrait hole. Albus followed. Once they were outside, James asked, “What is it?”
“James, whatever you think, I didn’t put my name in the Goblet of Fire.”
You just keep on saying this,” James replied coldly, turning away from Albus. “I don’t know if I should believe you.”
“James, you have to!” Albus said desperately, going around James and standing in front of him. “No one else does, you know, so you have to!”
“Then who did it?” James asked impatiently.
“I don’t know! If I knew that wouldn’t I have told Dad?”
James took a deep breath and said, “Are you sure you didn’t do it?”
“Yes!” Albus yelled. “I swear!”
They stood in silence for a few seconds. The Fat Lady looked at them both, irritated.
Finally, James sighed. “I still don’t know what to think, but for now, I believe you.”
Albus sighed. “Thanks.” He was rather surprised, to tell the truth. He didn’t expect James to trust him that easily.
“Don’t mention it. But you still are the youngest champion.” He smirked. “Do you know who did it?”
“Blimey, why does everyone ask me the same question?” Albus asked, smiling. “No, I don’t, but Dad thinks that it’s his fault.”
“Huh?” James said, cocking his head. “Why does he think that?”
“No idea. I think Dad thinks someone’s trying to get to him by killing me.”
James let out a whistle. “’Course, they couldn’t just put me in, could they?” he muttered. “After all, you’re Dad’s favourite.”
After all this, James was still wishing he’d gotten in instead? Albus felt a temporary surge of anger. “You really wanna fall into this mess?” he asked sceptically.
James thought for a while. “Guess not,” he finally said, looking sombre. “Better you than me.”
Al smiled. That was as good as James was gonna get.
They both walked back into the common room. Once inside, Albus quickly ran up to his dormitory without stopping to talk to anyone. There he found Scorpius, Andrew and, to his surprise, Rose. They seemed to have been talking before Albus entered, but they had stopped when he came in.
“I didn’t do it,” Albus said automatically even before they could ask the question.
“We know, we were thinking about who it could be,” Rose replied calmly.
“Huh?” Albus said, sounding bewildered.
“Did you think that we don’t know that you didn’t do it?” Scorpius asked, looking amused at Albus’s bewilderment. “We know, mate.”
“We aren't that stupid, you know?” Andrew said, laughing. “We know you enough to know that you wouldn’t do something like this.”
Albus felt elated. His friends believed him, his family believed him; what else did he need? He smiled. He could take anything from others now. “Thanks, guys,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. “Thanks a lot!”
“Oh, come on, Al.” Rose sounded exasperated. “No need to thank us, we are your friends… and cousin,” she added.
Albus laughed. “So,” he said, sitting down on his bed. “How are you here, Rose? This is the boys’ dormitory.”
“Oh, um,” she blushed. “Well, I guess girls can come in, whereas boys can't come into ours. I don’t know why though.”
“Right.” Albus narrowed his eyes, sounding suspicious. “So have you guys come up with anything?”
“No.” Scorpius shook his head sadly. “No idea whatsoever.”
“So what happened after you were chosen?” Rose asked.
Albus told them all that had happened, how his dad argued for him, how he was told that he had to compete, what his father had told him while coming back, everything. However, he left out what his dad had said about Mr Malfoy. He felt that Scorpius needn’t know those details. When he finally finished, Andrew said, “Whoa, man that was…”
“I know,” Albus said. “But what will I do now? I agreed, but how will I compete? I don’t know enough magic!”
“Why did you agree?” Rose asked frantically, her eyes wide as she stared at Albus as though he were mad. “Now you’ve got to compete! How’ll you do it? You are gonna die for sure!”
“Um, Rose?” Scorpius raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, sorry, not helping,” Rose replied, blushing slightly.
“We can always take help from our cousins,” Albus said hopefully.
“Maybe,” Rose replied. “But aren't you supposed to do it alone?”
“Who cares, he just needs help!” Scorpius said angrily.
“Oh, and so he’ll break the rules?” Rose said agitatedly. “No!”
“Like it matters!” Scorpius retorted.
“Of course it does!” Rose screeched.
Albus and Andrew watched on as Rose and Scorpius yelled at each other. Their eyes darted from Rose to Scorpius and back as though they were watching Chasers throw Quaffles.
“Rules don’t matter!”
“Yes they do!”
“Why do you –”
“Guys!” Andrew interrupted. Rose and Scorpius stopped bickering and looked at Andrew. “We are supposed to help Al here, not quarrel!”
“Right, so we go and talk to Victoire and the others,” Scorpius said.
“No we don’t,” Rose snapped. “Do we, Al?” she asked uncertainly.
“Yes we do,” Albus said. Scorpius looked smugly at Rose, who looked angry. “They’ll be able to help.”
“Fine,” Rose muttered, crossing her arms across her chest.
“Good, we go to them at breakfast!” Andrew said.
“Okay,” Albus agreed. “I’m tired, guys, can we sleep now? I had enough today.”
“Bye,” Rose said. “See you tomorrow.” She shuffled towards the door and pulled it open, waving to them slightly as she walked out. After that, the boys lied down on their bed. Then the door opened and their room-mates, Gregory Finnigan and Dennis Marcus, came in. Albus quickly pretended to be asleep; he did not need anyone else “congratulating” him. Following his lead, Scorpius and Andrew told them he was asleep. After a few minutes Gregory and Dennis lied down, and soon Albus really fell asleep.
A/N: Thanks for reading, everyone! Any comments and constructive critisisms would be greatly appreciated! :D
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