Chapter 31 : The Winner
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Albus and his friends spent most of Herbology watching people walking from Hogsmeade to Hogwarts in order to vote. It was very distracting and Neville didn't bother telling people to get back on task.
“When are we going to know who won?” John asked as they walked back to the castle for Defense.
“It'll be in the Prophet tomorrow morning,” Albus said. “That's the official notice, but I'm sure we'll find out earlier. Bradley and Cedric have to go to the end of the election party tonight. It starts at six and the polls close at eight. They're announcing the winner at the party at eight-thirty. Bradley and Cedric will be back after that and I give it about five minutes to spread around the castle.”
John laughed. “You don't have to go to the party?”
Albus shook his head. “My parents gave me the choice. I said no. James and Lily aren't going, either.”
“What about you two?” John asked Rose and Matt.
“No,” Rose said. Matt shook his head.
“Good,” John said. “We should have our own party here. A party to celebrate the end of this election. Maybe it'll mean Embry will let up on the essays. Anyone else writing their debate essay during Defense today?”
For the past few months most people had used Defense as a study hall. The worksheets Young assigned never took longer than fifteen minutes and he didn't seem to care what his students did with the rest of the class. Just as long as they weren't being loud. Albus didn't think anyone had used any Skiving Snackbox sweets in Defense this year, since there wasn't much point.
Albus, Matt, and Amanda all still needed to write their essays as well. Rose had written hers immediately following the debate, but the rest of them didn't see the need to do it right away.
“I can always finish it in History of Magic, too,” John said as they entered the castle.
“Let's go peek in the Great Hall,” Albus said as he led his friends over to the right.
Albus glanced inside and saw that there were four small cubicles curtained off where the staff table should've been. A short queue of people were off to one side and seemed to be waiting their turn for the cubicles. It didn't seem very exciting.
“Any comment on the election?”
Albus turned and saw a reporter lurking near the doorway. He didn't recognize this particular reporter.
“No, thanks,” Albus said as he steered the group away from the Great Hall, and thus away from the reporter.
“I don't think they're allowed inside,” Rose mentioned. “So they can't bother people who are voting.”
“That makes sense,” Amanda said. “Well, let's go get those essays done with. Then we'll never have to write essays on debates again.”
Albus nodded. No more debate essays. Now that would be a good thing.
The remainder of the day passed quickly. Albus, Matt, and Amanda managed to finish their essays during Defense, but John only got halfway done. Voting was suspended during lunch and then again at dinner. Albus overheard a few of the sixth and seventh years talking about voting and the election during dinner. A couple of Ravenclaws even got into an argument about it.
“Let's make a pact now not to get in any fights over the next election when we can all vote,” Rose said as they watched one of the arguing Ravenclaws storm out of the Great Hall.
The rest of the group heartily agreed. Albus couldn't imagine ruining a friendship over something as silly as an election.
“This party that Bradley and Cedric are going to,” John began, “it's for both your uncle and Laurentis?”
“Yeah,” Albus said.
“That's going to be awkward when they announce the winner,” John said with a laugh.
“It's supposed to promote good sportsmanship and that sort of thing,” Rose explained.
“Still...I can't imagine Laurentis being a good sport,” John said.
After dinner Albus and his friends returned to the common room, deciding that it might be interesting to spend the evening there rather than the Marauder's Den. They also wanted to hear firsthand from Bradley and Cedric who won.
The common room had the distinct feel that Gryffindor had just won a Quidditch match. James, Fred, Heather, Mark, and Ben had taken it upon themselves to have a party to celebrate the end of the election and thus the end of debates and essays on debates. There were cases of Butterbeer and trays of biscuits and nobody was working on any homework.
“Maybe now things can get back to normal,” Albus said as he opened a Butterbeer.
“If Uncle Percy wins things will never be normal again,” Rose pointed out.
Albus shrugged. “I don't know. Amanda seems fairly normal and her uncle's the Prime Minister.”
“That's because nobody here cares about the Prime Minister,” Amanda said. “At home everyone knows I'm the niece of the Prime Minister. My sister and brother certainly aren't anonymous at their schools. My sister's at university now and she says it's a bit better than it was in secondary school.”
“Albus, you're Harry Potter's son,” John said flatly. “No matter what happens, you're going to be well-known.”
Albus supposed that was true, but sometimes he wished it wasn't. Sometimes, he wished he could make his own way in the world and not have his dad's name tied to him.
“Did you ever get the map back from your dad?” Matt asked.
“Just curious,” Matt said.
Albus reached into his bag and pulled the map out. He'd taken to carrying it around with him all the time, but he wasn't sure why. After setting it down on the table he revealed it and focused on the part that showed Hogwarts.
“There's still a bunch of people voting,” Albus said, gesturing to the Great Hall. About a half dozen or so dots were milling about.
“Madam Rosmerta's there,” Amanda pointed out. “I wonder who she's voting for.”
“No idea,” Albus said. He glanced at his watch. “Half hour until the polls close.”
“How long do you think Bradley and Cedric will stay?” Kaden asked.
“Probably not long after the announcement is made,” Albus answered. “They don't really like going to those things.”
“Albus,” John said, pointing to the map. “Is it just me or is Malfoy going into Moaning Myrtle's toilet?”
Albus peered down at the map. Sure enough, a dot labeled 'Scorpius Malfoy' had just entered the second floor girl's lavatory. That didn't make any sense.
“What the hell is he doing in there?” Matt exclaimed. “Why would anyone go in there?”
“Myrtle's there,” John commented. “Look, she's floating over toward him.”
“But why?” Albus asked, still utterly confused. “Why would a bloke go in there?”
“Maybe the map made a mistake?” Kaden suggested.
“Dad says the map never lies,” Albus explained. “Well, there's only one way to find out. Let's follow him.”
“Sounds good to me,” Amanda said as she stood up. “This party is getting boring anyway.”
John and Kaden nodded their heads in agreement. Rose raised her eyebrows.
“No way,” Matt said, shaking his head vehemently. “There aren't enough Galleons in the world.”
“Oh, come on, it's just a girl's loo,” Amanda said. “Look, there aren't even any girls in there besides Myrtle. And she's a ghost!”
John laughed. “Myrtle's got a bit of a crush.”
“John, shut up!” Matt said, his cheeks turning red.
Amanda and Rose burst out in laughter. “Seriously?” Amanda said.
“Yeah, we had detention in there once,” John explained. “Myrtle spent the whole time flirting with Matt. It was hilarious.”
“I said, shut it!” Matt shouted.
“Oh, come on, she's just a ghost.”
“I'm not going. I refuse.”
“Fine,” John said. “Suit yourself. Rose?”
“I'll stay here, thanks,” Rose said. “You're wasting your time anyway. It's not like he'll tell you anything.”
Albus didn't care. He still liked the idea of going because it felt like he was doing something, making some sort of progress on figuring out why Malfoy had been acting so oddly the past few months.
They didn't bother bringing the Invisibility Cloak since there was still an hour left until curfew. On their way there, they spotted Peeves unscrewing chandeliers in honor of April Fool's Day, but ignored his cackles.
Albus watched the map as they went. Malfoy remained in the lavatory as they walked quickly down flights of stairs. But they got stuck on the stairs leading to the second floor corridor, after the stairs decided to lead them directly to the first floor rather than the second.
“He's leaving!” Albus exclaimed as they got back on the stairs after their slight detour.
“Maybe we can catch him on his way back to the dungeons,” Amanda suggested.
Albus nodded. “Let's wait here, then.”
Their current location gave them an excellent view of the Great Hall. A few Ministry officials were currently carrying pieces of the voting cubicles out of the room, polling clearly over. It would only be about a half hour until they had a new Minister of Magic.
John nudged Albus. “There he is.”
Albus turned away from the Great Hall and saw Malfoy walking down the staircase. He looked extremely determined.
“Malfoy,” Albus said.
“Potter,” Malfoy replied.
Albus suddenly had no idea how he was going to ask Malfoy about why he was in the girl's loo without revealing the map. If they caught him in there it would've been easy to say they saw him going in there, but now he was just walking down the stairs, perfectly innocently. He'd have to be really careful about it.
“So why were you in a girl's loo?” Amanda asked.
So much for being careful, Albus thought.
Malfoy paled. “Er, I wasn't.”
“Yes, you were,” Amanda said. “I was in there, too. Second floor, Moaning Myrtle's toilet? Ring any bells?”
“That loo was empty,” Malfoy said quickly. “I checked.”
“Next time check a bit harder,” Amanda said. “I was in the last stall and when I heard you come in I had to stay there because you're a bloke and it would just be weird to come out of a bathroom stall and come face to face with a bloke. I heard you talking to Myrtle, though.”
“I...er...that's not any of your...business,” Malfoy stammered.
“Then don't conduct your business in a girl's loo,” Amanda said with a laugh. “Let's go. We don't want to miss the news about the new minister. Clearly Malfoy's a bit unhinged.”
Amanda turned and set off up the stairs. Albus, John, and Kaden followed, leaving Malfoy frozen in their wake. Albus glanced back and saw that he was still as pale as Matt is right before a full moon.
“Amanda, what was that?” John exclaimed once they'd reached the second floor.
“That felt good,” Amanda said. “He just really irritates me, and this time we had something on him. I could tell Al didn't know how to ask him without telling him about the map. But I figured it'd be pretty easy to pretend I'd been in the loo with him.”
“That's brilliant,” John said.
Amanda grinned. “I have my moments.”
“Whatever it was, I don't think he'll be going in that loo anymore,” Albus said. “I just wish we'd figured out why he was in there in the first place.”
“Seriously,” John said. “The only way you'd catch me in a girl's loo is if you paid me a load of Galleons.”
“Or you got detention.” Amanda smirked.
“That doesn't count,” John said.
“Oh, shut it, both of you,” Albus said. “Let's hurry up and get back to the common room.”
When Albus, John, Kaden, and Amanda returned to the common room they were greeted by loud groans and sighing. Confused, Albus turned to his brother, who was nearest the portrait hole.
“We thought you lot were Bradley and Cedric,” James said.
“James, it's not even eight-thirty yet,” Albus pointed out. “They won't be back for at least a half hour.”
Rose and Matt were in the middle of a game of chess. Matt was losing spectacularly.
“Did you find him?” Matt asked as Rose's bishop crushed his queen.
“Yeah, but not in the loo,” Albus said. “Caught him on his way back to his common room. He wouldn't tell us a thing.”
“Of course he didn't,” Matt said. “And he probably denied he was in the loo anyway.”
“He would've,” Albus said. “But Amanda told him she'd been in there and then told him off for being there. It was brilliant.”
“Wish I could've seen that. I've always wanted to tell off Malfoy.”
“You should've come,” John said. “We didn't even see Myrtle.”
“Still...not taking any chances,” Matt said. “King to D6.”
Rose instructed her knight to move closer to Matt's king. “Checkmate.
Matt sighed. “One day, I'll win.”
“Me next!” Kaden exclaimed. Everyone else laughed. “What? I've gotten better,” Kaden muttered.
Albus, John, Matt, and Amanda settled down to watch as Rose clobbered Kaden. Albus could've sworn he saw Kaden's chessmen quiver as they were set up on the board. Rose's queen was most definitely grinning maliciously. Over the next half hour Kaden's pieces were viciously slaughtered by Rose's, but not without putting up a fight. Kaden was in fact getting better.
“Exploding Snap?” Matt asked after Rose and Kaden repaired their chessmen.
“Yeah, all right,” Albus agreed. The others nodded.
Albus ran up to his dormitory to retrieve his Exploding Snap cards. As he returned, the portrait hole opened.
The entire common room froze and was silent. Not a single person moved. Not a single person said a word. Even the first years, who had been tossing a Quaffle around, were still. Albus stood on the bottom step to the dormitories and waited.
Bradley walked inside, followed by Cedric. Neither seemed overly excited, but that didn't mean that Percy hadn't won. After all, they, like Albus, didn't really want Percy to be Minister, but they didn't want Laurentis as Minister either.
“Well?” James asked.
“Dad lost,” Bradley said quietly. He whispered something to James and then he turned and left the common room, followed by Cedric.
Albus couldn't believe it. He hadn't realized it until now, but he truly had believed that Uncle Percy would win. He had the support of Harry Potter. Didn't that mean anything anymore?
Albus returned to his friends and set the box of cards down on the table. He sat down and didn't say a word.
“What does this mean?” Amanda asked quietly. “Will she do everything she said she was going to do?”
“That and probably worse, too,” Albus said.
James walked up to the table. “Al, Rose, we're all going to the Room of Requirement. Bradley and Cedric want to give us more details.” He glanced the rest of the group. “Sorry, family only.”
“We'll see you later,” Albus said as he and Rose stood up.
Albus, James, and Rose walked to the Room of Requirement in silence. When they arrived they saw that the door was already there. They walked inside.
The rest of their cousins had already arrived. Albus took a seat on the last remaining couch and James and Rose sat on either side of him. Nobody was speaking, so he glanced around and watched all of his cousins.
Bradley, Cedric, Heather, Mark, Ben, Fred, Hugo, Lily, James, Rose, and Angie. And himself. They were the middle group of cousins. Not the oldest, not the youngest, but the ones in the middle, who never did anything first and never did anything last. They weren't the first to go to Hogwarts and they wouldn't be the last to graduate. They stood by each other, through the good and through the bad.
Bradley and Cedric weren't seated. They were standing at the front of the room, near its door. The entire room was decorated like the den in the Burrow, with mismatched furniture and organized chaos everywhere. Albus liked it.
“Well, Dad lost,” Bradley finally said. “I already told you that...but yeah. It was close. He only lost by a couple hundred votes.
“How did he take it?” Heather asked.
“Graciously,” Bradley answered. “Thanked everyone for their support and shook Laurentis's hand, of course.”
Albus wasn't surprised. Uncle Percy had and always would be the epitome of a polite politician. But maybe that wasn't enough to get elected.
“Is it terrible that I'm happy he lost?” Cedric asked as he squeezed onto the couch between James and Albus. “Because I am, kind of.”
“Just a bit,” Heather said. “What is Uncle Percy going to do now? I doubt Laurentis will keep him on.”
“I hadn't even thought of that,” Bradley said.
Neither had Albus, but it made sense. Percy was still employed by the Ministry, but his job was one of those jobs selected by the minister.
“He's always worked for the Ministry,” Bradley continued. “I don't think he could do anything else.”
The room descended into silence. Nobody seemed to know what to say, Albus included. His feelings on his uncle becoming minister had been all over the place for the past seven months, but now that Percy had actually lost, all Albus felt was disappointment. It was strange. Just last week he had been kind of hoping Percy would lose, and now that he had, Albus felt the complete opposite.
It was already past curfew for Lily, Hugo, and Angie, but nobody was telling them to go back to the common room. Albus was vaguely curious about what was going on in the common room, but not curious enough to actually go back. Matt, John, Kaden, and Amanda would tell him later.
What Albus was really worried about, more than anything, was what Laurentis was going to do to both the Ministry and Hogwarts. Laurentis had made it clear that she was going to change the school, but Albus liked it the way it was. Then there were the changes to the Ministry, such as the dementors. How long would it take for Laurentis to bring them back? Surely she had to go through proper channels to do it.
James, Bradley, and Cedric were the first to return to the common room, claiming they had to make good on all the bets they'd taken. Albus had a feeling all three of them were now slightly in debt. Albus and Rose returned a few minutes later, leaving the rest of their cousins talking quietly in the Room of Requirement.
When they returned Matt, John, and Kaden were playing Exploding Snap. Amanda was writing a letter.
“Who are you writing to?” Rose asked.
“My uncle,” Amanda answered. “I've been keeping him updated on the election. He says he likes hearing it from me rather than waiting until the new minister arrives to meet him.”
“Your uncle meets the Minister of Magic?” John asked.
“Well, yes,” Amanda said. “The two worlds do have to coexist. Sometimes there are problems that affect both. Voldemort, for instance. And Hartwell personally told my uncle about the escaped Death Eaters.”
“That's so weird,” John said.
“I told you about it earlier in the year,” Amanda pointed out. “That's the only reason I got to go to Hogwarts. My parents changed their minds at the last minute and happened to mention it to my uncle, laughing about the fact that they'd actually said I could go. And then my uncle told them it was all true.”
“I wonder how often that happens,” Albus mused, “Muggleborns not being able to go to Hogwarts because their parents don't believe.”
Amanda shrugged. “I'm just lucky I wasn't one of them.”
“I think we all need a distraction,” Rose said and turned to Kaden, whose face was covered in ash. “Deal out the cards again. Let's play until we're too tired.”
Albus heartily agreed, and that was exactly what they did. Two hours later, all of their faces ashen, they were finally tired. But when Albus climbed into bed, his thoughts began racing and he found himself unable to sleep.
A/N: Sorry for the late update! My birthday is tomorrow so I had friends up for the weekend and completely forgot. Thanks for all the reviews!
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