Chapter 22 : Canceled Match
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The article on the debate had been a long one, taking up nearly the entire front page. It featured a photograph of Percy and Laurentis arguing with each other, and Albus was able to see his uncle's face turning steadily more purple, despite the fact that the picture was in black and white. The article that followed detailed Laurentis's apparently years-long campaign to bring the dementors back. She had put the proposition up for vote four times and it was shot down by Minister Hartwell each time.
“Of course he shot it down,” Rose said after skimming the article. “It's a stupid idea. Oh, look, they've quoted my mum. I'll read it. 'Hermione Weasley, Senior Assistant of Magical Law Enforcement, when asked about Laurentis's proposal, said, 'It's absolutely barbaric. Everybody, including prisoners, have basic human rights that cannot be broken. I thought we'd moved past the days when the Ministry sanctioned emotional abuse of its prisoners and the thought that a woman running for Minister is proposing this is quite frankly horrifying. It is my sincere hope that the people of wizarding Britain will think long and hard about the effects this will have, not only on prisoners, but on our society as well, before they cast their votes in April.''”
“Always one to speak her mind, your mum,” Albus said.
“I couldn't agree more,” Amanda replied. “Although if Laurentis wins I bet she gets sacked.”
“She can't,” Rose said. “Her job isn't appointed solely by the Minister. If she were head of the department, then yes, but she isn't head yet. It's confusing.”
“Good,” Amanda said. “We'll need some sane people in there if Laurentis is elected.”
“What are you lot doing today?” John asked, steering the conversation away from the election. “Kaden and I are going to spend the day plotting our new prank.”
“I don't want to know,” Rose said, holding up her hands. “I'm probably going to go to the library.”
“I'll go with you,” Amanda said. “I want to research dementors and their use in Azkaban.”
“Quidditch practice,” Albus replied. “All day. We've got to get ready for the match on Saturday against Ravenclaw. After the last match, we've got to make sure we we win by a decent amount of points if we're going to takeover Slytherin's place for the Cup.”
“Oh yeah,” Kaden said. “Whatever happened with that Olivia girl? She had a huge crush on James, didn't she?”
Albus laughed. “I've no idea.”
“She sent James a box of chocolates for Christmas,” Cedric, who had been sitting next to Albus, whispered. “But you didn't hear that from me.”
“I was there when he opened his presents,” Albus said.
“She gave them to him before we went home for the holiday,” Cedric explained. “She hijacked our thestral carriage and wound up riding to the train with us.”
“How awkward was that?” Albus asked, still giggling.
“Very,” Cedric said as he glanced over his shoulder. “She stared at him the whole time.”
“Creepy,” Albus said.
“Shh,” Cedric said. “He's coming over.”
“I think I'm going to go visit Matt before Quidditch practice,” Albus said. “I'll see you later?”
“Sure,” Rose said. “You know where to find me.”
“And us!” John announced. “Marauder's Den. Prank planning.”
“I don't want to be involved,” Albus said as he got up.
John shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
Albus hurried up to the Hospital Wing and managed to get inside without Madam Pomfrey noticing, although the nurse wouldn't have minded him being there. But she was very preoccupied with two students who had somehow fused their left arms together. Matt was already awake and much cheerier than he had been the previous day, when talking about Greyback. He was pretty sure Madam Pomfrey was going to let him out that night, so they agreed to meet in the Marauder's Den just before dinner.
Quidditch practice went very well and Albus was fairly certain they would beat Ravenclaw on Saturday. No one mentioned the election or Laurentis's wanting to bring back the dementors, which was a sure sign that things were getting back to normal at Hogwarts. Albus spent the rest of the day in the Marauder's Den working on his homework with Matt while trying to avoid hearing any part of John and Kaden's new prank.
The week went by quickly since Albus spent every moment he wasn't in class on the Quidditch pitch. But the weather remained decent so it was enjoyable. The only day Albus wasn't on the pitch was Thursday, when he had dueling practice.
“When's the next tournament?” Amanda asked as she and Albus walked into the Transfiguration classroom, where they were were scheduled to practice. Heather was there to supervise, sitting in a corner. A few of the team members were there already, including Malfoy.
“Weekend after this one,” Albus said. “I think we'll do well.” Albus glanced over to Malfoy, expecting some sort of snarky comeback from him. But he wasn't even paying attention. Instead he was hunched over a long piece of parchment. “Wonder what he's doing?”
Amanda shrugged. “Last minute homework?”
Suddenly, Malfoy sat up straight and crumpled the piece of parchment. He shoved it into his pocket and stood up, staring at Albus as he did so. He looked sullen and averted his eyes after only a few seconds.
“I don't think that's homework,” Albus said.
“Weird,” Amanda said.
“Very,” Albus agreed. “Let's get started! I think we should practice blocking.” He took a sidelong glance at Malfoy, expecting him to scoff and claim that they already knew how to block, but instead Malfoy just turned to the student nearest to him and began to do as Albus said. What was even weirder was that the student he partnered with was a second year Hufflepuff. Albus blinked to make sure he wasn't seeing things and then began shooting spells at Amanda while she blocked them.
The practice session got stranger as the night went on, in terms of Malfoy's behavior. Not once did he second guess what Albus said and he didn't say one word to anyone that wasn't directly related to dueling. Heather raised her eyebrows at Albus on numerous occasions since she had supervised Albus's practices before and knew how much Malfoy usually tried to be the captain. He ran out of the room as soon as the practice was over, looking vaguely upset, as he had at the debate.
“That was the strangest thing ever,” Amanda said as she and Albus walked back to the Gryffindor common room. “And I witnessed my brother attempt to brew a potion this past summer and drink it, thinking that it would turn him into a wizard.”
Albus burst out laughing. “Was he really disappointed that he didn't get a Hogwarts letter?”
Amanda nodded. “I never thought he would but didn't tell him that. But do you have any idea why Malfoy didn't argue with you tonight?”
“I've no idea,” Albus said. “But I really hope he stays this way.”
“I bet it had something to do with whatever he was reading when we walked in.”
“I wonder what it was.”
Amanda shrugged. “No idea, but I wish I did. It's just so odd.”
“Whatever it is, I hope it keeps him like this during next week's tournament.”
“Albus! What if it's something really awful?” Amanda asked.
Albus hadn't thought about that. “Well, we don't know that it is, so I don't have to think about it.”
“Albus, I doubt anything good would make Malfoy shut up like that,” Amanda reasoned. “I'm just saying, it might be something awful.”
Gryffindor's tendency to play Quidditch during really bad weather came up in full force on Saturday, when the unseasonably warm temperatures decided to desert Hogwarts. In its place were freezing cold temperatures and a howling snow storm that probably should have resulted in the match being canceled. But since Hogwarts never canceled Quidditch, Albus was preparing himself for a miserable match. He wished they could have nice weather, like they had when they played Slytherin in November.
The last time Albus had played in a storm this bad he'd been in his second year and wound up in the hospital wing with the flu afterward. He certainly did not want a repeat of that so he was hoping that James would catch the Snitch sooner rather than later.
“Fred, this is crazy,” Ryan said as they stood in the doorway of the changing rooms, waiting for the match to begin. “There is literally no way to see the Snitch in this.”
“There's nothing I can do about it,” Fred snapped. Everyone could tell he was stressed about this match, since they'd lost to Slytherin. “We have to play unless Kendrick calls it off.”
Ryan was right. Albus stared out onto the pitch and all he saw was white. The snow was swirling and blowing and Albus couldn't tell if more snow was actually falling or if it was all just getting blown around. But either way, finding a Snitch in it was going to be near impossible.
“I'll catch it,” James said confidently. “Don't worry.”
“We're not going to be able to hear the commentary,” Fred said. “Just catch it as soon as you can. Don't worry about catching it after we're up a certain number of points. We just need a win at this point.”
There was a very dull, quiet roar of applause and Fred led the team out onto the pitch. The balls were released and Albus flew up into the raging storm. Soon, he didn't know which way was up or down, let alone where the Quaffle was. After about ten minutes of meandering around the pitch, not knowing where he was going, the Quaffle suddenly appeared. Albus caught it, but had no idea where the goal posts were.
Albus flew straight ahead, hoping it was in the right direction, but instead of reaching the goal posts, he reached the stands. Groaning, he turned and headed toward the goal posts. At least he now knew where they were. He managed to score, mostly because Ravenclaw's Keeper didn't see him.
The match continued in chaos, with no one knowing where anyone else was. Albus didn't see a single Bludger the whole time and assumed the Beaters were just trying to keep track of them rather than trying to get them to hit the opposite team's players. Fred had been right about the commentary; Albus couldn't hear a word of it.
It felt like he was playing a match by himself. The only other players he saw were the Ravenclaw Seeker, Fred, and Heather. They had given up chasing as a team and instead, when one of them got the Quaffle, they flew it down to the goal posts as best they could.
“Albus, Albus!” someone shouted.
Albus turned and squinted, but he couldn't make out anyone flying near him.
Albus continued flying in a circle trying to figure out who it was. He didn't even recognize their voice, but it could have been distorted by the wind. Finally, he began to make out a figure flying toward him. It was Heather.
“Albus!” she shouted once she reached him. “The match has been canceled. We're all to return to our common room right now.”
Albus nodded, figuring that Kendrick finally came to his senses. It was just impossible to play a good game of Quidditch in a storm like this.
When Albus and Heather finally reached the changing room they found the rest of the team sitting in their wet Quidditch robes, their faces pale. Albus noticed that even Heather looked slightly afraid.
“What's going on?” Albus asked.
“You were flying so high, you probably didn't hear,” Fred said as Albus sat down. “The match wasn't canceled because of the weather.”
“But it's so bad out there,” Albus said. “That match was pointless.”
“One of the Ravenclaw first years,” Fred continued, ignoring Albus, “she was late to the match and on her way down she saw-” Fred paused, swallowing hard. “She saw Fenrir Greyback on the grounds.”
“What?” Albus exclaimed, suddenly feeling nauseous. “But it's so snowy. How could she possibly know for sure?”
“She can't, of course,” Fred said. “But she went running to Professor Longbottom as soon as she reached the pitch and told him. That's when they canceled the match and sent everyone back to the castle.”
As if he heard Fred mention his name, Professor Longbottom walked into the changing room, looking scared himself. “I'm going to escort you all back to the common room. Wands out as we walk.”
Albus drew his wand and followed the rest of his teammates out of the changing rooms. They were all quiet on the walk back to the castle since the storm was still raging. No one would have been able to hear anything anyone said, even if anyone felt like talking. Albus felt too ill to talk. The thought of Fenrir Greyback being loose was bad enough, after hearing what Matt knew about him, but the thought of him being here, on the Hogwarts grounds, was too awful to even think about.
As they walked up to the castle and then up to Gryffindor tower Albus kept telling himself that it was fully possible that the Ravenclaw girl hadn't seen Fenrir Greyback. She was probably just thinking about the escaped prisoners and imagined something. Albus hadn't even been able to make out his own cousin when she'd been calling his name in this storm. What were the chances of a first year being able to pick out Fenrir Greyback?
But still...what if it had been Greyback? He had to be somewhere, so why not Hogwarts?
The common room was buzzing with chatter when the team entered a short while later. Albus avoided everyone, including his friends, until after he went up to his dormitory to take a shower. He was shivering and felt awful and didn't want to talk to anyone until after he was in dry clothes.
To his surprise his friends were all gathered in his dormitory after he got out of the shower. Bilius and Ethan weren't there, and the door was shut.
“We can't go to the Marauder's Den,” Matt explained. “We're not allowed to leave our common rooms until further notice.”
“Are they doing an investigation?” Albus asked as he sat down on his bed. “And what exactly happened? Fred only explained a little before Longbottom came to take us back to the castle.”
“It was weird,” Rose said. “No one really knew what was happening because it was so snowy and the wind was so loud. We couldn't see the match, so we were just standing there using a lot of heating charms and hoping things would be over soon. But then we started hearing whisperings about Greyback on the grounds. Then, probably two minutes later, Kendrick magically amplified his voice and told us all that we're to report back to our common rooms immediately and to walk back with our wands out and in large groups.
“So then, even though Kendrick never said for sure, we knew that someone had seen Greyback on the grounds. It was so scary. Eventually we found out that one of the Ravenclaw first years thought she saw him on her way to the match and told Professor Longbottom. But besides that we don't know much. No one's told us anything for sure and we've just been hanging out here and talking.”
“But what's he doing here?” Kaden asked. “And I thought there were Aurors guarding Hogwarts.”
“It was planned,” Matt said. “Don't you see? That storm out there is so bad that no one can see three feet in front of them and the wind is so loud no one can hear anything either. It was the perfect day for him to sneak onto the grounds, and if that girl hadn't seen him who knows what he would've done.”
“So you think she really saw him?” Albus asked skeptically. “You said it yourself, no one can see anything.”
“For all we know he said something to her,” Matt said. “No one knows the full story yet.”
“But why?” Kaden asked. “Seems really stupid to me. If he escaped he should be hiding out in the mountains, not going to Hogwarts where there are Aurors.”
“Remember what I said after he escaped?” Matt asked quietly. “This just confirms it. He's going to try to create his own werewolf army again. He was insane before Azkaban; imagine how crazy he is now. They don't need dementors in prison to make people go insane.”
“And you think-”
“That he came to try and figure out how to best position himself to bite kids during the full moon?” Matt interrupted. “Yeah, I do.”
Albus shuddered. “That's sick.”
“That's what he does,” Matt said. He looked more worried than everyone else. “But what I don't get is why it seems like he's trying for Hogwarts kids. Last time he went for really young kids.”
“But we don't even know for sure that's what he's up to,” John pointed out. “I mean it makes sense, but we still don't know.”
“Still,” Matt said. “You have to promise me you won't go outside during the full moon. I don't want any of you joining me in the Shack.”
John looked skeptical. “There's other reasons why he could be here.”
“Promise me,” Matt repeated, staring directly at John. “It's not worth the risk.”
John shrugged. “Yeah, I promise.” Everyone else nodded.
“What about the rest of them?” Amanda asked. “Do you think they're working together?”
“I don't know,” Albus began. “I'm sure the Carrows are together and Umbridge might be with them. But I doubt Willinson and Greyback are with them. The Carrows were Death Eaters, but Greyback wasn't technically a Death Eater. Voldemort used him, but always thought he was scum because he's a werewolf. The Carrows probably agreed. And Willinson, he's got no connection, which is why I'm still confused as to why he broke out with them.”
“For all we know they left the door open and he followed,” John said with a laugh.
Amanda groaned. “Everyone's got their own cell in high security.”
“Oh, yeah, I suppose you're right,” John said.
“Two Death Eaters, a war criminal, a werewolf, and Willinson,” Albus said. “It's so random. Why them?”
“Sounds like the start of a joke,” John said. “Two Death Eaters, a war criminal, a werewolf, and Willinson walk into a pub....”
Matt groaned. “Don't even go there. I just really hope they catch him before the next full moon. There wasn't anything in the Prophet about him biting anyone this last full moon, but I don't think he'd go two moons without biting. And there's no way he'd go on Wolfsbane, even if he could get some.”
“I wonder where the others are,” Rose mused. “You think they're just hiding out?”
“They must be,” Albus said. “There haven't been any sightings.”
There was a knock on the door and then it opened. James walked inside and sat down on the end of Albus's bed.
“Longbottom just came to talk to us,” he said. “We'll be allowed to leave the common room for dinner, but not before that.”
“Did they catch him?” Matt asked anxiously.
“No,” James said. “But, Longbottom said the owner of Madam Puddifoot's also saw him, so the Ravenclaw girl probably did see him. They've scoured Hogsmeade and there's no sign of him, though.”
“Are they rescheduling the match?” Albus asked.
James nodded. “Next Saturday. Good thing, too, because I don't think that one would've ever ended. Don't tell Fred, but there's no way I would've seen the Snitch.”
“One upside to Greyback being on the grounds, I guess,” Albus said.
“Lucky he didn't attack that girl,” Matt said as James left. “He attacks people even when he's not transformed.”
“He did that to my uncle Bill,” Albus said.
“Really?” Matt asked.
Albus nodded. “At the end of my dad's sixth year, the night Dumbledore was killed. He doesn't transform, but he likes really rare meat. Like hardly cooked at all meat.”
“Eww!” Kaden exclaimed. “That's gross. Wait, Matt, do you like really rare meat?”
Matt grinned. “Yeah. I hardly ever get it, though. Mum refuses to let me eat it because she thinks it'll make me ill. And they don't serve it here.”
“My uncle eats it all the time,” Albus said. “Aunt Fleur likes her steaks pretty rare, too. So does Teddy for that matter.”
“I like mine well done,” Kaden said.
“Now that's what's gross,” Matt replied. “I should ask the house elves to make me rare steak.”
“They probably would,” Rose said. “They make you pretty much whatever you want.”
“Let's go tonight,” Matt said. “We haven't been down there in ages.”
Kaden groaned. “So we're going to have to witness you eating a piece of raw meat?”
“Not raw,” Matt said. “Slightly cooked, bit of blood dripping out.”
“Oh, gross!” Kaden shouted. “I'm going back down to the common room.”
Albus laughed and Matt grinned as Kaden ran out of the room. There was nothing like a trip to the kitchens to get their minds off of Greyback and the other escaped convicts.
A/N: Sorry for the late update! I totally forgot it was Friday. Thanks for all the wonderful reviews! Please check out my Marauders fic, Between Here and Somewhere.
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