Chapter 24 : Precautions
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Albus went down to the Great Hall by himself for breakfast. His early night had given way to him waking up far sooner than he normally did. It was nice being able to linger over breakfast, though, and concentrate on the upcoming match rather than interact with his friends. As he ate, the Great Hall slowly filled. He had just finished the last of his eggs when the post owls arrived.
Albus observed the owls and didn't recognize any of them. Clearly he was not receiving any post today, which was a good thing because he was fairly certain Longbottom had owled his parents about his detention. But then he noticed a very large owl holding a red envelope in its mouth; it was a howler and the owl was heading toward the Slytherin table. Albus continued watching it and saw it land right in front of Scorpius, who yanked the envelope off the owl's leg and tripped over the bench in his haste to leave the room. Albus actually sympathized with him; it was awful opening a howler in public. From the sound of it, Malfoy didn't quite make it to a loo or empty classroom. Muffled shouting could be heard coming from the Entrance Hall.
Malfoy didn't return to the Great Hall. Albus figured it must have been a particularly awful howler and was wondering what it could possibly have said when his friends sat down next to him.
“Malfoy got a howler,” John said as he started loading his plate with bacon.
“I know,” Albus said. “Saw him get it.”
“Well, we heard the tail end of it,” John said.
“It was awful,” Rose replied.
“What did it say?” Albus asked. “Who was it from?”
“His dad, I'm guessing,” John said. “It was a man's voice. We crouched down on the stairs when we saw him. Basically his dad was yelling at him for getting in trouble for stupid things when he should be studying and concentrating on his school work and keeping his head down. Then he said something about how Malfoy knows that they, meaning his parents, have far more important things on their minds than worrying about Malfoy getting in trouble in school. And how they can't worry about him at school when they're busy worrying about other things.”
“That's vague,” Albus said. “He didn't say what the other things were?”
“Nope,” John said. “But Malfoy obviously knows what they are because he was shaking and he ran for the dungeons after the howler blew up.”
“I told you the letter he read at practice was about something bad,” Amanda said.
“And now we know it's got something to do with his family,” Albus said.
“Maybe they're going to join up with Willinson and the Carrows and all them,” Matt said. “His dad was a Death Eater, wasn't he?”
“Sort of,” Albus said. “His grandfather was, but his dad sort of got caught up in it and he got off. So did his grandfather, actually. No one really knows why, but my dad vouched for them at their hearing.”
“Now that is weird,” Matt said. “Maybe his grandfather is planning on joining them.”
Albus shrugged. “Maybe, but it just doesn't sound right. Listen, I've got to get to the pitch. I'll see you after.”
“Yeah, for detention,” Matt muttered. “Going to be a blast.”
Albus's wish for a long match came true. Since the weather was cooperating, James put off catching the Snitch until Gryffindor was up by 200 points, instead focusing his efforts on faking dives to keep Ravenclaw's Seeker away from the Snitch. It worked, and three and a half hours later James caught the Snitch and won the match for Gryffindor. Albus was sorely disappointed that he'd have to miss the resulting party in the common room, but figured that's what Longbottom was going for when he scheduled detention for right after the match.
Matt was waiting for Albus in the Great Hall and the two of them grabbed a quick lunch before hurrying to Longbottom's office. They spent the next two hours writing 'I will not sneak out of the castle after dark' over and over again. By the time they were done Albus wanted to curl up and take a nap, since the Quidditch match itself had exhausted him. He and Matt decided to spend the afternoon in the Marauder's Den, just relaxing if not actually sleeping.
When they arrived they found John and Kaden in the middle of plotting their new prank. Rose and Amanda were in the library, apparently avoiding John and Kaden and their prank.
“Are you two sure you don't want to be involved with this?” John asked. “It's going to be legendary.”
“It won't be worth the detentions,” Albus said.
“Seriously,” Matt agreed. “If it's legendary it's going to mean a lot of detentions.”
“Fine,” John said.
John and Kaden lowered their voices, but Albus distinctly heard the words 'Weasleys'', 'itching powder,' 'Slytherins,' and 'alarm clocks.' At that point, he really didn't want to know. He and Matt decided to start a game of chess and attempted to tune out John and Kaden's whisperings.
“I was thinking the other night and realized if my dad loses his job when Laurentis is elected it's going to be just like Australia,” Matt said as he captured one of Albus's pawns.
“I hadn't thought of that,” Albus said. “Does that mean you'd move again?”
“I don't know,” Matt said quietly. “I really hope not. I guess I don't think so because the real reason we moved here was so I could go to school, not for Dad to get a new job.”
“Then you probably won't,” Albus replied, taking one of Matt's bishops.
“But if he does lose it, it's going to probably mean Laurentis disagrees with him on werewolf issues,” Matt pointed out. “That could be really bad.”
“You never know,” Albus said. “There's other things your dad deals with that they might disagree on.”
“But my dad's the most vocal on werewolf rights. Everyone knows that,” Matt said. “If they're going to disagree on something, that's going to be it.”
“I guess you'll have to wait until the debate,” Albus said.
“I'm thinking of going,” Matt said quietly. “It might be awful, but I want to know what she says firsthand, not from the Prophet.”
“That makes sense,” Albus said. “When is it?”
“In three weeks,” Matt said. “February 15th. That's the only thing; it's the day of the Hogsmeade trip.”
“That happened last Hogsmeade weekend,” Albus said, “when Rose went. Sucks that they do that.”
Matt nodded. “I think I'll go anyway. I mean, it is the Valentine's Hogsmeade trip. Speaking of that, is James still going out with that Hufflepuff girl? I forgot her name.”
“Gabby Ellis,” Albus said. “I've no idea, to be honest. I guess we'll find out when the Hogsmeade trip comes.”
“Just as long as Fred doesn't schedule Quidditch practice for that day again,” Matt pointed out.
Albus laughed. “He won't. None of us minded too much since the weather was so nice, but I think if he did it again the whole team would hate him.”
“That would make an awkward family dinner, considering over half the team are your cousins,” Matt said.
“Family dinners with my family have become awkward by definition,” Albus said. “Luckily the next one won't be until far after the election.”
“Only a little over two months to go,” Matt said. “You can make it.”
“I hope so,” Albus replied, as he moved his queen in the direct line of Matt's king. “Checkmate.”
“Rufus Scrimgeour was the last Minister of Magic to be appointed by the Wizengamot,” Professor Embry said as he strolled around his classroom. It was the first week of February and the class had finally gotten to the point where they were beginning to discuss the second war. “He was appointed quickly, after Cornelius Fudge resigned.
“Minister Fudge is commonly known as the least competent Minister ever to hold office,” Embry continued. “He refused to believe evidence that was laid out plainly in front of him, for fear of being known as the Minister who held office when Voldemort returned. Somehow, he thought that if he ignored what was right in front of him, it would just simply go away. This backfired, of course, because he is now known for being the least competent Minister.
“Scrimgeour is seen in a slightly better light than Fudge, although he was Minister when the Ministry fell to Voldemort in August of 1997....”
Albus knew all of this, of course. He'd grown up listening to his parents laugh at the incompetency of Fudge and the pointlessness of Scrimgeour being considered a minister at all. Nevertheless, he listened to Embry and took detailed notes since the essays Embry set were often long and difficult.
“The time of the second war was a time of fear and chaos,” Embry said as he reached the front of the room again. “No one knew what was going on or who to believe. Many people heartily believed Fudge and what he said, believing Albus Dumbledore to be a fraud or even senile. When this reality was shattered for them in June of of 1996, they didn't know what to do or who to turn to, or even what to believe. They'd been fooled for a full year, believing what their Ministry and newspaper told them. Now that they knew they'd been lied to for a year, what were they to do? They didn't trust anyone, let alone the Ministry. Most people's goals were to protect their family and friends and that was it.
“It was the fear and chaos that allowed Voldemort and his followers to take control of the Ministry. Without the support of wizarding Britain, the Ministry was weak and susceptible to a takeover. It was simple for Voldemort to slip in and takeover in a matter of weeks.”
“Excuse me, Professor?” Olivia Price said, raising her hand.
“Yes, Miss Price?” Embry replied. “You have a question?”
“Yes, sir,” Olivia replied. “I was just wondering, and you don't have to answer, but what were you doing during the second war?”
If Embry was surprised that Olivia asked him a question about his personal life, he didn't show it. Instead he gave a slight smile and began to walk around the classroom again.
“I don't mind answering that,” Embry said. “Many of your parents were involved with the war effort, so of course you're curious. When the Ministry fell I'd been working there for about six years. I got a job as an undersecretary in the Department of Magical Transportation when I was just out of Hogwarts and worked my way up the ranks.
“I'd received a promotion shortly before Minister Fudge resigned and worked to draft laws, but I quit after Scrimgeour got appointed because I saw that the Ministry was weak and corrupt and no longer wished to align myself with it. After Voldemort's defeat, I was approached by Kingsley Shacklebolt asking if I would like to be involved with rebuilding the Ministry, and I said yes.”
Albus was impressed. Embry hadn't mentioned what sort of job he did at the Ministry and Albus had had no idea he had been so involved with its rebuilding after the war.
“So you can see why I believe it is so important to educate all of you about the history of the Ministry and how it is organized now,” Embry finished. “Looks like we're out of time for today so please write an eight inch essay on Rufus Scrimgeour's term as Minister for homework, due next Tuesday.”
Albus packed up his bag and headed back up to Gryffindor tower with his friends. When they arrived, there was a crowd around the notice board, which was strange. The Hogsmeade weekend date had already been announced and rarely did other notices garner such a crowd around the notice board.
Albus shrugged at his friends and they squeezed through the crowd until they could read it. It was a large poster, covering the majority of the board, imposing an early curfew Sunday night. Everyone, first through seventh years, were to be back inside the castle by five in the evening, no exceptions. Below that it warned that Filch was going to lock the front doors at exactly five and that everyone was to report to their common room at five-thirty.
“That's weird,” Albus said as he and his friends retreated. “I don't think they've ever imposed a curfew so early before, and for everyone?”
“It's because Greyback hasn't been caught,” Matt said quietly. “Sunday's the full moon.”
“They must think he's going to come back,” Albus replied.
“Scary,” John added. “Do you really think he will?”
“I don't know,” Matt said. “But I'd bet my parents' whole Gringotts vault that he's going to bite someone Sunday night.”
“Wait,” Rose said. “You don't usually go to the Shrieking Shack until six or seven.”
“They're probably doing it early just to be safe,” Matt said. “In case some people don't follow it or something. It says on there that the prefects are going to do a head count. That's why we all have to come back to the common room at five-thirty.”
Rose nodded. “Then you'll have to leave later, after the doors are locked.”
“Either that or Madam Pomfrey will have me go early,” Matt replied. “I really hope not, though. I hate sitting out in the Shrieking Shack.”
“I hope not, too,” Albus said quietly.
Albus and his friends were probably the only students who knew the reason why a curfew had been imposed on Sunday. Even the prefects seemed clueless, since Albus overheard a few of them trying to figure it out. More than a few students were angry about it, although Albus had no idea why since it wasn't common for students to take a stroll on the grounds on a Sunday night in February. He supposed they liked the choice, though.
As Sunday drew closer Matt became quieter and even more closed off than he normally was. In fact, it reminded Albus a lot of the way he was in first year, before Rose figured out why he disappeared once a month. Both Albus and Rose tried to get him to open up about it, but he shrugged them off and insisted he was fine. John and Kaden didn't seem to notice any difference in Matt, and Amanda wasn't one to ask about it when he closed himself off.
Saturday's Dueling Tournament proved uneventful. Albus spent the entire few hours worrying about Matt because he had elected to skip the tournament in order to sleep, which was odd since he'd normally at least try to participate. At least Malfoy made Albus's life easy by remaining quiet throughout the tournament and not blaming Albus when the team came in third place. Albus himself won both of his duels, as did Malfoy.
On Sunday Albus and his friends spent the day in the Marauder's Den, working on homework and playing games. Matt slept for much of the day and he still wasn't saying anything. While Albus was worried, he was fairly certain the reason Matt was so quiet was Greyback. When a quarter to five rolled around, they had to return to Gryffindor to prove they were in the castle. Matt was still asleep, so Albus told everyone else go to on ahead and that they'd follow.
“Matt,” Albus whispered as he shook his friend awake. “We've got to go back to the common room.”
“This is stupid,” Matt muttered. “They're counting everyone to make sure no one gets attacked by a werewolf when they've got one living in the castle.”
“Is that why you've been so quiet this week?” Albus asked as Matt got up. He didn't reply. “You and Greyback aren't the same.”
“I know,” Matt said as they left the room. The corridor was empty, so he continued to talk. “It's just the fact that we're both werewolves. That's the same. What if they start doing this curfew thing every full moon, all because of me?”
“They won't,” Albus said. “You're not dangerous because you're in the Shrieking Shack. It's all sealed up.”
“I guess, but it's still possible.”
“You and Greyback are different because he wants to bite people. He purposely transforms near people, not on Wolfsbane, so he can infect people. You hide yourself away to protect everyone. That's a huge difference.”
“But what if he does come to Hogsmeade,” Matt continued. “He'll hear me howling and know there's a werewolf in the Shrieking Shack and he'll try to get in.”
“But he won't be able to,” Albus pointed out.
“And then if he does bite someone, and let's face it, he will,” Matt said. “It's going to look bad for all werewolves. All it'll take is a few attacks and people will start believing we should have our rights taken away. That's what happened in Australia.”
“You're getting ahead of yourself,” Albus said as they reached the common room. “Right now you don't know that any of that's going to happen. Wandering banshee.”
“You're nearly late,” the Fat Lady said as she swung her portrait open.
Albus and Matt climbed inside and found the common room the most crowded they'd ever seen it. Prefects were milling about attempting to get everyone to quiet down, but everyone was still trying to figure out why such an early curfew had been set. The room was so crowded that Albus and Matt couldn't find the rest of their friends and since being in a crowded room was not the best idea for Matt right before the full moon, they quit searching and instead sat down near the dormitory doors.
“Everyone, quiet, please!” Heather announced in a magically amplified voice. The room finally quieted down. “I know you're all upset about the curfew but they haven't even told us prefects why it's been imposed. It's not that big a deal since it's February, dark, and freezing outside. None of you would be outside anyway. Now just remain quiet while we take roll so we can all get downstairs for dinner. After we're done you'll be allowed to roam the castle until your normal curfew.”
Heather began calling out names in alphabetical order by year. It took her fifteen or so minutes to get to the fourth years and after that Albus tuned her out. Fifteen minutes after that she finished and all the Gryffindors had been accounted for. The common room emptied out quickly, since everyone wanted to get to the Great Hall for dinner. Matt had fallen asleep and after Albus prodded him awake, he went up to the dormitory to sleep until he had to go to the hospital wing.
When Albus and his friends returned from dinner Matt had already left for the hospital wing. They decided to just stick around the common room since it was fairly empty and spent the evening working on their essays for Professor Embry.
“Any chance you lot know why we're stuck inside?” James asked as he snagged the last chair at Albus's table. “Cedric, Ben, and I are asking everyone.”
Albus exchanged a glance with Rose. He supposed it couldn't hurt to tell James the reason why, just so long as he didn't tell him why they knew. Of course, as soon as he told James it would spread around the castle like dragon pox at a wizarding nursery school, but again, that wouldn't really hurt anything.
“We've got a hunch,” Albus said. “Remember how Quinn Gregory saw Greyback on the grounds during the Quidditch match?”
“Yeah,” James said.
“Well, tonight's a full moon,” Albus said. “Put it together.”
James was silent for a moment and then his eyes grew big. “You think Kendrick thinks he's going to come here tonight?”
“That's our guess,” Albus said and his friends nodded.
“Makes sense,” James said. “Can you imagine what kind of trouble Kendrick would be in if someone got bitten by a werewolf on the grounds?”
Albus didn't want to think about it. He doubted Matt wanted a companion in the Shrieking Shack.
“Scary,” James said, “thinking about Greyback transformed while wandering around the grounds. I wonder why they didn't just tell us. No one would be angry about it if they'd told us the reason.”
“Probably didn't want anyone to panic,” Albus said.
“Guess so,” James agreed. “But still, everyone's going to know now.” He grinned and then got up to go find Ben and Cedric. The fact that the curfew was due to Greyback would be common knowledge in the castle within ten minutes, Albus guessed.
Albus managed to finish his essay and decided to call it a night shortly after. He didn't feel like talking, not with the possibility that Greyback was either running around the Hogwarts grounds or setting himself on some unsuspecting village, wanting to infect small children with lycanthropy. It was awful to think about. Albus laid awake for hours, trying not to think about it, but try as he might, he just could not push the thought from his mind.
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