Chapter 7 : Chapter Seven
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EDIT: I fixed the italicized issues. :)
The next morning seemed to take forever to come along. After Addie and James split their ways the night before, James had a rough time getting to sleep. He decided the best action to take would be telling Professor McGonagall before sending word to his parents. There really was no need to get them involved if it was nothing to worry about.
He ventured down the stairs a few minutes after he woke up and saw Will chatting with Addie already. More than likely Addie was filling him in on what they heard last night.
“Really?” Will asked, actually shocked Jackson would do anything like sneaking out of the dungeons late at night. “Who is his little sister?”
“Don’t know,” James interrupted and made the two jump a little in their seat. “We forgot to ask her last night. I think it could be Hayden, but Professor McGonagall should know for sure.”
“James sort of jumped to the punishments before finding out all of the explicit details,” Addie informed Will.
“Did you take loads of points away?”
“Honestly!” Addie hit Will in the back of the head and fumed.
“Not really,” James admitted, “but perhaps McGonagall will raise the stakes.”
“Oh yes!” Addie barked. “Leave everything to McGonagall. We should have told Brandon last night and he would have been able to make the necessary measures right then and there. Whatever we tell McGonagall will be difficult to explain since she wasn’t there firsthand.”
“Even if Brandon were the one to see last night’s little meeting, he would still have to go to McGonagall and set things straight. There was something not right about last night, Addie, and that is why she must know before we anger them by finding out ourselves.”
Addie crossed her arms and looked at Will for help. When he didn’t say anything to defend her, she huffed and said, “Whatever.”
“Lets go down and get some breakfast,” Will attempted to break the silence.
Dominique was coming down the girls’ dormitory and stretched once she reached the bottom of the stairs and Addie greeted her with a, “This is all your fault!” and stormed off in the direction of the portrait hole. James looked back at his baffled cousin with an apologetic look and followed Addie with Will right behind him.
When they made it to the Great Hall and ate some breakfast, Addie still hadn’t calmed down.
“Look,” she said while indicating with her head that McGonagall was at the staff table, “you can run up there and tell her now.”
“Are you being serious?” James asked her. He was far more annoyed with her behavior now than he was earlier this morning and she was not easing up on him. When she didn’t reply, he sighed and slammed his Daily Prophet down on the table. “I’ll be right back.” Will looked up at him sympathetically before he left and then continued working on his waffles.
There weren’t a lot of people in the Great Hall today so James was able to make his way up to the Headmistress without too many wary stares. Before he reached the table, though, Professor McGonagall looked up and asked, “What is it, Mr. Potter?”
James looked down the row of staff and saw Hagrid wave merrily down at him. James nervously returned the gesture and settled his attention back on McGonagall.
“I need to tell you something that happened last night on Prefect duties.”
McGonagall was puzzled at first as to what he was talking about. He couldn’t blame her because last night was supposed to be the Hufflepuff’s patrol.
“I don’t see why you can’t bring it up with Miss Weasley or Mr. Nelson, James.” She said finally. It seemed just as strange and awkward for the old professor to be talking to a student at the staff’s table as it was for James to be up there. Never in all of her career, or James’ schooling, had anyone waltzed up to the table to talk to any of the staff like this.
“I can’t, Professor. Dominique wouldn’t listen when we tried telling her someone would be at the North Tower after hours last night, and Brandon’s information would be just as useful as mine.” He said, trying not to give too much away to the rest of the staff.
“Very well,” Professor McGonagall said sternly. “See me after breakfast in my office and I will excuse you from your next lesson. This better be important, Mr. Potter.” She looked up at him over the brim of her hat with a sort of smile that only she could pull off as loving.
“Yes, Professor,” he said and then he turned to meet up with Addie and Will where he was previously sitting.
“What’s going on?” Addie asked, her mood considerably better since he left. “I didn’t see the Slytherin points change.”
“She didn’t take any points away,” James corrected. Will looked disappointed and took a swig of his pumpkin juice. “Not yet. I have to meet her in her office after breakfast to tell her the details.”
Addie had a rather smug look to her and James scowled at her. He didn’t know why she was behaving this way toward him, but he hoped it stopped soon.
“Aahh!” she exasperated after taking a huge gulp of pumpkin juice and setting the goblet on the table with a little more force than needed. “Well,” she said happily, “I have Ancient Runes to get to. What about you, Will?”
“Muggle Studies with Professor Bintz,” Will said quizzically. He shared an odd glance with James and the two boys gave up on Addie’s rude behavior for the day before parting their separate ways.
Once James arrived at Professor McGonagall’s office, he found being a Prefect came to his advantage.
“Studere difficile et excellis.” He said simply and the ugly gargoyle started to spin upwards as the stairs allowed him to advance to the office. Professor McGonagall was already up there, along with many still sleeping past Headmasters.
“What is it, James?” the professor asked while looking down at a rather large parchment in front of her and looking over her spectacles. “Whatever it is, you made it sound certainly urgent at breakfast.”
“It is, Professor,” James said, walking toward the desk and looking around at the still amazing ornaments that littered the room. “It’s about Jackson Winters and his little sister, err—”
“Hayden?” she asked, raising her pencil thin eyebrow in wonder.
“Yes. That’s her. Jackson and Hayden were in the North Tower last night after hours and I have reason to suspect a girl named Chloe is involved, too.”
“Miss Arndale? Was she out of bed after hours last night, too?” The professor’s collected attitude just seconds ago seemed more worried now. James didn’t know who Chloe Arndale was, but he didn’t like the way Professor McGonagall said it.
“Not that I know of,” James admitted, not sure if he should continue with the rest of the information until McGonagall insisted he went on to tell her the rest.
After he finished recalling everything that was said last night, Professor McGonagall’s face went pale and she seemed more worried than before.
“I really hoped there would be no need for our extra precautions this year,” she said somewhat to herself. “Not this early in the term at least!”
“Excuse me, Professor McGonagall, but what do you mean?”
The Headmistress sat upright and looked at him firmly as though she had momentarily forgotten he was in the room.
“It means, Mr. Potter, that we will have to call your parents.”
The points taken away from Slytherin and any form of possible punishments were forgotten.
Albus was eating his supper without any complaints of his day until the doors opened to the Great Hall and the last people he wanted to see in the world urgently trudged into the room.
“What’s Mum and Dad doing here?” he wondered to himself with his forkful of green beans almost to his mouth.
The entire Great Hall went silent and Professor McGonagall was standing at the head of the table as a few more people from the Ministry followed Mr. and Mrs. Potter.
“Welcome!” McGonagall said, though she didn’t seem too pleased with the circumstances. Professor Flitwick started making the necessary procedures in getting a few extra chairs added to the already full table. “Students,” she said while the company made their way to the front, “I’d like to remind you about our visits by the Care of Magical Creatures Centre and Department of Magical Law Enforcement. They are here tonight and for the rest of this week to take precautions on the goings on here at Hogwarts. To further inform you is Minister of Magic, Mr. Shacklebolt.”
The students automatically cheered for the Prime Minister as he rose from his new seat and smiled down at the crowd of students.
“Thank you for having me on this fine evening,” Kingsley started and the students hushed others around them that were beginning to pick up the excitement of their guests. “As Professor McGonagall has informed you, there will be Ministry officials checking up periodically on how smoothly things here at Hogwarts are running.”
“Shows just how low Hogwarts is stooping, doesn’t it?” Some Slytherin girl that Albus had no care to see who it was sneered at a friend next to her.
“Two hundred years have gone by since the last time any Care of Magical Creatures examination has occurred and we are pleased to say there were never any calls for an early return. No one has done anything particularly wrong, but we would like to keep up with our magnificent creatures here at Hogwarts.”
Albus’ mum was scrawling everything Kingsley said as though she were writing it down for some report in the Daily Prophet. She was doing a good job at making it believable, but Albus knew why she was there. He knew why all of them were there. Something strange was going on like they said it would and they came to investigate.
“Here to explain in further detail is Mrs. Hermione Weasley and her team of the Care of Magical Creatures Centre and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”
The students cheered again after Kingsley’s spiel was done and Hermione stood once he sat down. She was not smiling.
“Thank you, Prime Minister. Now, as you all know, I am head of both the Care of Magical Creatures Centre and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. What I am here to do is make sure the creatures here at Hogwarts are in a safe environment and do not feel in danger by the students or staff here at Hogwarts.”
“It’s about time!” Chris shouted across the Great Hall and directed the comment straight to Hagrid. A few of the other Slytherins laughed and Albus jabbed him in the ribs with his elbow to silence him.
Hermione shot a very nasty look at Chris and then an apologetic one toward Hagrid before continuing her speech.
“If there is any cruelty toward any creature of Hogwarts while I am here, or any magic to torture or bind an animal, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement will be sure to take your wand away and set your very own trial up at the Ministry of Magic. You will be treated as an underage witch or wizard outside of school no matter what your age. This is a legal issue.”
Hermione sat down curtly and expected no applause, but Albus’ father made sure to start one and the rest of the Great Hall responded by doing the same.
“Thank you for that, Mrs. Weasley.” Harry’s voice boomed politely around the hall. “As you all know I am Head of the Auror Department at the Ministry of Magic—”
“And Harry Potter!” Someone at the Ravenclaw table announced to the rest of the students as though they didn’t have their own set of eyes.
Yes, Albus thought to himself, Ravenclaw really are for the witty.
“Yes,” Harry said, momentarily stumbling over his words but smiling at the same time. “My name is Harry Potter. So glad we got introductions out of the way.” He winked at Albus and his youngest son smiled at the witty remark. “Do you wish to know why I am here as well, or do you already know?”
There was no answer from the boy who shouted so rudely to everyone about Harry Potter, but the rest of the Great Hall began to laugh. Harry was definitely making this whole deal a lot easier to deal with.
“No? Good. I am here to assist the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in making sure no wand waving occurs to any of our beastly friends, or our fellow students. It is not unusual for a group of Ministry officials to intimidate more than a few students in doing things they wouldn’t normally do. Myself and Mr. Weasley are only here as a precaution so nothing happens. We will not even be here the full week. Those who have any questions concerning of what exactly is mistreating a creature, you can come and ask Mr. and Mrs. Weasley or myself so you can stop yourself from doing so or discontinue your current actions. There truly are little acts into mistreating an animal, so be careful with what you do.” Harry then smiled and sat down in his seat.
More cheers emanated from the students as though they had just heard the Queen of England herself give a moving speech on dragon dung. Harry nodded his head and waved his hand appropriately to those he recognised before Professor McGonagall stood and raised her arms for absolute silence. Once the room was again silent, she cleared her throat before talking and rested her hands on the table before her. It wasn’t a usual sight, but Albus didn’t think much of it.
“Now that the introductions have been made, I expect every student to be warned and be on their best behavior for our guests! Gryffindors, you shall play host for these guests and I want them to be very comfortable in their stay. For now, finish your feast at your leisure and head back to your common rooms!”
Albus didn’t even bother with talking to Chris after the comment he made about Hagrid before running off to Professor McGonagall’s office. This was the first time ever that his parents, or anyone in the Ministry for that matter, had ever visited Hogwarts in a very long time. Once he reached her office he needn’t worry about knowing the password because the gargoyle was already activated. In fact, someone could be heard walking down the stairs right now.
“Albus! I was just coming to get you,” James reached for his brother and hugged him. “Mum and Dad are upstairs along with the rest of them. We’re having a meeting.”
“I knew this wasn’t going to be a little family get-together,” Albus sighed and followed his brother up the spiraling stairs. When he walked into the room, Ginny ran up and embraced her son. His father walked up and placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled down at him. Albus looked around the room and noticed he was the last of the Potter/Weasley clan to arrive.
“He’s here now,” Dominique pointed out. “Can you tell us why you’re all here please?” There was an edge of worry in her voice, and she was embracing Louis and Lucy.
"What's going on?" Albus asked as he sat next to Lily and James. James seemed more tense than anxious and had his hands in pale fists. Lily automatically grasped at her other brother’s hand and looked expectantly up at their parents.
“Nothing yet,” Aunt Hermione said in between Hugo and Rose. It was hard to believe she was the strict witch in front of the entire school not only an hour ago. “We decided to come just for the time being so nothing does happen.”
“James,” Harry said with a calm sternness, “why don’t you tell everyone what you wrote to your Mum and me.”
James left Albus’ side and stood at the front of the room and Harry took his place.
“Last night Addie Sanders and I were patrolling the North Tower when we caught Jackson and Hayden Winters out of bed exchanging something. I wouldn’t have put any thought in their meeting if it weren’t for Mum tipping me off something peculiar should be going on. I took an ordinary piece of parchment with a list of ingredients on it. They had nothing else on them.” James was explaining everything in detail while Albus remembered the strange meeting between Jackson and Chloe a while back.
“That’s why the entire Ministry of Magic is here?” Fred asked with more than a little annoyance. “There was a grocery list exchange?”
“It could be much more than that,” Harry warned while shooting Fred a stern look. “Did they have anything else at all on them, James?”
“Just some Galleons and Knuts,” he remembered and his dad shared a concerned look with Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron.
“Harry, unless he’s sure, we can’t just pop up out of the blue like this. The kids can’t expect anything bad is going to happen if there are parchment exchanges going on.” Uncle Ron looked sympathetic but Albus knew he was right. It was one of the reasons he never wrote to his Mum and Dad about Chloe and Jackson: he had nothing to go on. James was playing it safe.
“He’s right, son,” Ginny said with an apologetic look toward Harry. He wasn’t wavered by everyone’s disbelief in his son. “Unless you have anything else to go off of… We really shouldn’t be here.”
“Wait, Ginny,” Professor McGonagall stood behind her desk after keeping quiet all this time. “There is another who may be a potential factor to James’ suspicions of these children’s intentions. Miss Arndale seems to be involved in it all.”
“See!” Harry jumped in. “James stuck with his gut and he was right. If Chloe Arndale is involved, there is definitely something to worry about this year.”
The room sputtered to life and the kids started whispering amongst one another. Albus heard Lucy ask Dominique what was going on at Hogwarts and that seemed to be the topic everyone else picked up on. What Albus wanted to know was what was wrong with Chloe Arndale.
“Are you telling us there was something to worry about before coming to school this year?” Jane jumped in automatically. Her beefy face was confused but also somewhat threatening. “If so, why didn’t you tell us before?” The other kids looked up with the same look of longing in their eyes. Albus felt guilty. He knew all this time there was something to worry about, but he didn’t know what exactly.
Harry felt the pressure of his family to answer their questions. Ron, Hermione and his own wife looked at him expectantly, knowing the secrets had gone on long enough. With one last look at the Prime Minister, he decided to tell them all.
Albus sat up considerably straight so he could grasp what bits of the story he never heard. Only one other person in the room seemed to show as much enthusiasm as he did and that was Molly. Now Albus knew she knew more than he did from the morning after the wedding.
“We think someone may be trying to replace Lord Voldemort and rise to power. And that his followers are starting here in Hogwarts.” Harry said gravely.
The entire room gasped and the whispers became more urgent. Albus felt his jaw drop. He didn’t think parchment exchanges and secret meetings behind the stone circle would lead to the rise of another Dark Lord. Obviously it wouldn’t be the same Lord Voldemort, but who would try and take his place?
Some of the girls were crying and the boys were comforting younger siblings or their own mothers. Harry put an arm around Ginny, who remained strong, and said, “If anyone has any leads or things they’ve heard in the halls, please don’t be afraid to come up and tell us. Anything at all will help. We think we may have a few suspicions as to who may be following, but there is nothing we can do until you tell us. Anyone?”
“I found out about the meeting last night from Molly,” James answered, darting his gaze toward the older girl.
She looked up as though she hadn’t been phased by the news told to everyone about the rise of a Dark Lord. Instead, she hugged her knees and rested her chin on top of them.
“I heard Chloe Arndale telling Hayden to meet Jackson up in the tower. That was all.” Besides not mentioning how she heard the entire conversation between her father and Albus' father, she seemed to be telling the truth.
“Anyone else?” Harry asked desperately. When no one answered, he nodded his head and looked at his immediate family with a small smile. “Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.”
“It’s OK, Daddy,” Lily cried, shoving her face into his chest and wrapping her arms around him. Albus felt sick at the thought of his sister having to do that to him if he were the one to break the news. Now he most definitely couldn’t tell anyone he knew.
Harry patted her on the head and kissed her forehead. “It’s time for bed. I’ve kept you all for far too long and I’m sure there is lots of studying to get done. Goodnight and be sure to tell no one of what you heard tonight. We wouldn’t want the whole school to start worrying about nothing now would we?”
“Aren’t you coming to Gryffindor Tower, Daddy?” Lily asked before taking hold of James.
“Later tonight. As for now, I have to talk with Professor McGonagall and the rest of these Ministry officials. I’ll see you soon, Love.” He winked at Albus and James and that was their goodnight for now while they dragged Lily down the stairs.
When they reached the bottom and the rest of the family cleared out, Albus said his goodnights to his brother and sister and went to catch up with Molly. It didn’t take long because she was sluggishly making her way back to Ravenclaw Tower.
“Molly!” he called. Her attention peaked and she turned around to see who it was that called her.
“Oh,” she said, “it’s just you.”
“That’s a great ego boost,” Albus said but disregarded the comment almost at once. “You knew.”
“That’s cutting to the chase,” Molly said with a tone of surprise. She stopped walking and turned to look at him. He was only thirteen years old and he was looking her straight in the eye. The stare down intimidated her. “Alright, yes! I knew. Did you?”
“Yes, and it’s been killing me not to tell anyone. Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I don’t think my dad deserves the weight of the world on his shoulders again,” Albus pointed out. “Plus, I didn’t think this whole thing would wind up being another rise to power. I wasn’t on the other side of the door as long as you were.”
Molly squinted her eyes at him and looked as though she were about to hex him, but she did just the opposite of that. She began to cry.
“What’s wrong?” Albus was shocked at the sudden change in attitude. He hadn’t done anything to upset her as far as he knew. Molly shook her head and then wrapped her arms around the younger boy. He sputtered a few encouraging words like, “Buh. Uh. Well. Um. It’s OK?” and patted her back. She choked back a laughed and then pulled back.
“That was rubbish,” she said, wiping away the tears with the back of her hand.
“Sorry?” He took a step back to get a better look at her. She seemed more relieved than anything. “What exactly is wrong with you?”
She laughed again and sniffled before answering.
“Nothing really,” she said. “I mean I’m terrified as hell, but I’m glad someone knows about this besides just me. All I know is someone is trying to rise to power, but I really have no idea as to who their followers are or how to find them.”
“I have no clue either,” Albus said honestly. “What James gave us isn’t exactly a lead.”
“So you were being honest back there? You haven’t actually heard or seen anything? Not even with being in Slytherin?”
“Now you’re just stereotyping,” Albus pointed out. It wasn’t something he usually let slide, but he knew what Molly meant. “I haven’t really heard anything out of the normal. I mean, I keep running into Jackson and Chloe having meetings all over the place, but Jackson has always been known as the school bully. I figured he was just trying to get Chloe to join his group because she’s pretty.”
“Maybe,” she said hesitantly, “but that leaves Jackson and Chloe in the lead for most suspicious things around school.
“You don’t know Jackson like I do. He may be in your year, but I practically live with the bloke. He doesn’t seem the type who could help bring a Dark Lord to power and keep it a secret at the same time.”
“Apparently it’s not so secret now.”
There was a moment’s silence as Molly’s words sunk in. Minor things really were beginning to change once Albus discovered Jackson and Chloe had strange meetings once a week. Most of them he never heard, but he saw them speaking in a dark corner in the common room on multiple occasions. Some of the Slytherins, and even the Ravenclaws, began to become dismissive in class and weren’t as bold as they used to be. Some, more than others, were too bold. Could Jackson be behind the rise of a new Dark Lord?
“Want to make a deal?” Albus asked his cousin as seriously as he could. Molly nodded as though she had seen it coming. “We can’t let anyone know about what we find out. Not for a while at least. If it is something that is just starting and a bunch of kids are in control of it, I’m sure we can do this on our own. We don’t need to bring anyone else into this and we don’t need to worry any more people about it. If you tell me about what you see and hear, I’ll tell you, too. The less activity the rest of the gang hears about, the more invisible this whole issue becomes to them. What do you think?”
Molly took a moment to think about his proposal. It was risky because they were messing with the darker side of things that hadn’t been touched in over twenty years. However, she knew Albus was right about how they could bring the followers down if they were only just forming themselves up. Albus was tired of waiting and placed a hand out in front of her. With one moment’s more of pause, she shook his hand. They would now stop the new Dark Lord, whoever they were, from rising. Alone.
Jackson Winters was looking around the dark and secluded room and smiled at the thought that he was not alone. It was extremely late and after hours and most of the group was extremely tired, but they were waiting for someone to arrive. They had to know just what exactly it was that made the Ministry come to Hogwarts. While they waited, he sat back and took pride in the room he found in the beginning of last year. It was something much more different than the Room of Requirement, which meant it was that much less likely to be found. It was below the surface of even the dungeons, so the walls were extremely moist and there were dark pools of water on the cobbled floor. It was probably not quite as low as the supposed Chamber of Secrets, but it was close. No one would bother them here.
There was a long, black table reflecting shadows of the members around it by the two torches lit in the entire room. The numbers weren’t great, but soon they would amount to something after this year. Hopefully, even sooner. Hayden was sitting next to him and twirling her chopped haircut with her wand while she was talking to Chloe next to her. The girls were extremely self-indulged in the conversation they were having about how stupid Jackson was in their opinion to notice the two other boys that accompanied them. Scorpius Malfoy and Lorcan Scamander were sitting opposite of the girls and were having their own conversation about the Weasley girl Scorpius dumped the other day. He had to. Jackson made him. There was no need for one of his possible best Angels to be distracted. It was either the Angels, or death.
At last, the final member ran into the secret room and struggled to catch her breath.
“Any news, Dursley?” Jackson asked her as the rest of the table went silent and stared at Jane huffing and puffing before them. “Well?”
“They...they—” she puffed. “They know!”
“Everyone?” Chloe asked, her eyes flickering to Jackson and back to Jane. “Including the Ministry?”
“Y-yes! Uncle Harry and all!”
“Dammit!” Jackson exclaimed, pounding a fist on the dark table. His eyes were completely adjusted to the remaining darkness now and he could see the startled faces of everyone but Chloe. She glared at him and spat at him.
“I knew your plans were idiotic!”
“Hey now, Arndale, that's my brother!” Hayden pounced into the conversation and placed her hand inside of her robes where Jackson assumed she kept her wand.
“Enough!” he said, pulling his sister aside. “It is just a simple drawback in the plan. So we got a few more people than Potter to know who we are. We’ll lie low for a while and they’ll go away. We need more recruits anyway before we can do anything. You lot haven’t been doing your job.” With that last sentence he focused right on Chloe.
“I’ve tried getting Albus alone, but he always leaves without explanation once I’ve had him for too long,” Chloe explained her antics but did not break the eye contact she held with Jackson. He really did loathe this girl.
“Perhaps we need someone else to do the job since it seems Miss Arndale can’t keep track of the one she has.”
“How dare you, Winters! I’ll have you know that if it weren’t for my—”
“I’ve had it with you and your threats, Arndale. Either you can convince Potter to join or you can’t. You choose. It’s your life at steak.” The threat seemed odd coming from Jackson. He was used to making the petty threats of locking Hufflepuffs in Moaning Myrtle's toilet if they didn’t get out of his way. A death threat was a big deal for him, and the power was always hungry. “So, can you get Potter?”
Without hesitation or falter, Chloe looked right at him and said, “Yes.”
A/N: I honestly think this is one of my favorite chapters I've written! :) What do you think? Please review! They always make my day so much better!
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