Chapter 3 : Knockturn Alley
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John nudged Albus and pointed toward the alley between Borgin and Burkes and a seemingly unnamed bookstore. Albus glanced at it and saw a rather short man showing a rotund witch a variety of what looked like homemade potions in mason jars. Albus and the others turned away quickly, not wanting either party to notice them.
A majority of the storefronts were abandoned, which didn’t surprise Albus at all. He knew that while there was still a market for Dark objects and Dark magic, and Dark wizards still existed, there was a whole lot less of a need for the darker aspects of Knockturn Alley after the war. Many Dark wizards took their business underground, feeling that even Knockturn Alley was too out in the open.
“There’s hardly anyone here,” Kaden said, clearly disappointed. “I don’t see what the big deal is.”
“It was worse when our parents went to Hogwarts,” Albus explained.
“I’ve heard it’s worse at night,” John said.
“Borgin and Burkes looks fairly awful,” Matt pointed out.
“Should we go inside?” Kaden asked.
“Are you kidding?” Albus replied. “It’s one thing to come to Knockturn Alley, but to go in one of the shops? We’d get kicked out.”
“Well, we’d better go somewhere,” John said, pointing down the street. “Professor Young is lurking up ahead.”
“What?” Albus exclaimed, peering in the direction John pointed. Sure enough, Professor Young stood in front of a shop a few meters away, staring into the display.
“Quick!” John shouted as he grabbed Kaden’s arm and the back of Matt’s shirt and dragged them into the nearest shop. Albus followed.
There was no bell on the door to alert the owner to their entrance, and the place was dark. It smelled like someone left a cauldron full of rotting potion over a fire for two months, and as soon as Albus’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw why. They were in an apothecary and every shelf near them sagged from the weight of bottled potions. An open cauldron full of what looked like purple slugs stood to Albus’s right. The ceiling was abnormally low and looked as if it had sunken, rather than having just been built that way.
Matt coughed. “This place smells awful. And there’s aconite in here. I’ve got to leave.”
“And run into Professor Young?” John whispered. “Are you mad? Let’s just find somewhere to hide before the bloke who owns this place notices us.”
Albus agreed with John. Surely as long as Matt didn’t come into contact with the aconite he’d be fine, and certainly better off than running into Young. John led them through a dizzying array of aisles containing various ingredients and finished potions until they reached a curtain separating the main room from some other room. John yanked it open and shoved them into what turned out to be a storage closet filled with boxes.
“Better?” John asked.
“Not really,” Matt whispered. He covered his mouth as he coughed again.
The closet was roomier than the one they’d hid in in the Minister’s Mansion the previous year, but wasn’t exactly comfortable. Albus was shoved up against a stack of boxes in the very back, his friends all in front of him.
They stood perfectly still for five minutes. Matt’s coughs were the only noise.
“You think-” John began.
“Shhh!” Matt seethed. “Someone’s coming. I heard footsteps.”
A minute later Albus heard them. There were two different people walking around the shop. The first person had a very loud walk while the second was very light on his or her feet.
“I need more,” one of them said.
“This is all I’ve got now,” the other one replied. “Come back later. It doesn’t stay for longer than a month.”
“Fine. How much for this?”
“Fifty? Are you mad?”
“It’s fifty. Feel free to leave if you don’t want to pay, but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone else to brew this for you. They don’t exactly sell it at St. Mungo’s Apothecary.” He chuckled.
“Fine. Here.” There was a jingle of money exchanging hands.
“Don’t forget you need to add hair-”
“I know how it works,” he interrupted. “Brew more of it. I’ll be back in a month.”
The light-footed man walked away and Albus heard the door open and close a few seconds later. The first man muttered to himself as he stomped away in the opposite direction and opened the door to what must’ve been the back room. The door slammed behind him.
Matt slid open the curtain and ran to the front of the store. Albus and the others followed. When they reached the street, they found Matt retching into a nearby garbage bin. He stood up when he noticed the others.
“You look terrible,” Kaden said.
He did. Matt’s eyes were bloodshot and his face glistened with sweat. “You think?” he snapped. “I’m allergic to aconite.”
“But you didn’t eat any of it-”
“It doesn’t matter. Just breathing it in is enough. If I ate it I’d wind up in St. Mungo’s. Aconite is the active ingredient in Wolfsbane.”
“But it doesn’t work on you,” Kaden said.
“I know. That’s the great mystery.”
Albus glanced at his watch. “We need to get back to the Leaky Cauldron.”
“What do you think that bloke was buying?” John asked as they hurried back to the entrance between the two streets.
“Polyjuice potion,” Matt said. “The shopkeeper was muttering about Polyjuice potion not being worth stocking after that bloke left.”
“I wonder what he needs it for,” Albus mused. “no one ever uses it for anything good. So whatever that bloke is up to, it’s nothing good.”
“Forget about him,” John said as they passed Borgin and Burkes, “what about Professor Young? What was he doing here?”
“He’s in there!” Kaden shouted, pointing at the window.
Albus stopped walking and peered into Borgin and Burkes. The window was dingy, as if it hadn’t been cleaned since before Voldemort’s defeat, but Albus was able to make out two figures. One stood behind the counter and the other in front of it, and the latter looked vaguely like Professor Young.
“Well, now we definitely need to leave,” Matt said as he stepped back from the window. His face was still blotchy and his eyes swollen.
“How long will it take for your face to look normal again?” John asked nervously. “My parents are going to notice that.”
“An hour or so,” Matt said. “You should’ve thought of that before you dragged us into that apothecary.”
“I had no choice! Professor Young would’ve seen us!”
“He’s going to see us now,” Albus said, jumping back. “He’s on his way out.”
The boys scurried away from the door just before Professor Young strode outside. At first, the older man didn’t notice his students, instead focusing on stowing something in his robes, but then he looked up and his eyes rested upon Albus and the others. His face glistened with sweat and his eyes darted around nervously.
“Boys,” he said, nodding. “Having a good summer?”
Albus glanced nervously at his friends, but none of them said a word. Then, John shoved Albus forward. “Er, yes, Professor,” Albus said.
Professor Young nodded again. “Good. I’ll see you in September.” He strode off in the opposite direction of Diagon Alley without another word.
Albus let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “That’s a relief. He didn’t even ask us why we were here.”
“Well, now we’re ten minutes late to meet my parents, so we need to go. Now,” John said.
The boys broke out into a run and headed back to Diagon Alley, but Albus’s mind wasn’t on meeting John’s parents at the Leaky Cauldron. Instead it was on Professor Young, and why he’d been in Borgin and Burkes in the first place. As far as Albus knew, people only went in there to sell or buy Dark artifacts. Why would a Hogwarts professor need Dark artifacts? If it had been any other Defense professor Albus supposed they could’ve just been buying something for class, but Young never actually taught. Instead he assigned reading and worksheets.
They reached the Leaky Cauldron and John wrenched the door open, revealing Mr. and Mrs. Brickston, both wearing annoyed looks. Lily, Ashtyn, Gemma, and Amelia sat at a table behind them, drinking Butterbeer. Lily and Ashtyn smirked as the boys walked in.
“You four are in trouble,” Lily said.
“Where have the four of you been?” Mrs. Brickston demanded. “You’re fifteen minutes late!”
Mr. Brickston stepped closer to Matt, a curious look on his face. “And where have you been? Your face-”
“Just the apothecary, getting our potions ingredients,” John said, holding up a bag from the apothecary in Diagon Alley. “There was a really long line-”
“Don’t even try that, John Malcolm,” Mrs. Brickston said, giving him a withering stare. “We were just in the apothecary and not only were you four not there, there wasn’t a line at all.”
Mr. Brickston tilted his head and frowned. “It almost looks like a reaction to-”
“It’s nothing!” Matt interrupted, glancing around nervously at the other people in the crowded pub. “I’m fine. I promise. It’ll go away in an hour.”
Mr. Brickston’s eyes grew large and then he nodded, placing his hand on Matt’s shoulder. “Very well. Just have a seat. I’ll get all four of you some Butterbeers and sandwiches for all of us.”
“Jeff!” Mrs. Brickston said, throwing her hands up. “You’re just going to drop it and buy them Butterbeer? They were fifteen minutes late.”
“They’re here, Jan. They’re safe. Just let it go.”
“That was weird,” John said as they sat down and his parents went to the bar. “I was expecting a half-hour lecture.”
“Maybe it’s because we’re here,” Kaden said, shrugging.
“It’s because I’m here,” Matt whispered. “Did you see that look your dad gave me? He knows why my face is red.”
“No he doesn’t,” John replied. “He doesn’t know what you had a reaction to.”
Matt sighed. “Yes, he does. It’s a very specific reaction and all Healers learn about it in school. Look at my eyes.”
Albus stared at Matt’s eyes and noticed they were completely gold, with no blue at all. Usually Matt’s eyes could be described as mostly blue with gold flecks, but not now. There was no blue to be seen. “But, they weren’t like that when we left the Apothecary.”
“It’s a very specific reaction,” Matt repeated. “First a headache, then swollen eyes and coughing and sneezing and other normal allergic reactions, then vomiting, then eyes turning completely gold. Everything subsides in the same order it comes, as soon as the person isn’t near aconite anymore.”
“Oh,” John said. “So all it took was that?”
Matt nodded. “But he’s a Healer, so it doesn’t matter. What department does he work in?”
“Spell damage,” John answered.
“What are you four whispering about?” Ashtyn asked
“You,” John said immediately. “And how annoying you are.”
Ashtyn groaned. “Seriously, John. What’s so secretive?”
“Nothing,” John snapped. “It’s none of your business.”
“Lunch!” Mr. Brickston said, a bit too enthusiastically, as he set a tray down on the table. He gave Matt another glance as he returned to his seat.
“Eat fast,” Mrs. Brickston said, as she gave John another withering glare. “I’ve had enough of London for one day.”
“He definitely shoved something into his robes as he left,” Matt mused as the boys sat around John’s bedroom after they returned from Diagon Alley.
Lily and Ashtyn disappeared as soon as they got home in a vain attempt to escape Gemma and Amelia, who wanted to hang out with the older girls. Mrs. Brickston immediately put a kettle on for some tea and announced she’d be in her bedroom, reading, and no one was to disturb her unless the house caught fire or someone broke a limb. Mr. Brickston laughed at this and headed to his study. Albus and his friends went to John’s bedroom, the only place in the house they’d be alone.
“So he either bought something or tried to sell something but the bloke at the shop wouldn’t buy it or didn’t offer him enough money,” John said. “Wish we knew which it was.”
“Did it look like he was arguing with the shopkeeper?” Matt asked. “I didn’t get a good enough look.”
“I couldn’t tell,” Kaden said. “The window was too dirty.”
“He was nervous,” Matt pointed out. “And he didn’t even seem to care that we were there.”
“Which is weird,” John said. “If it had been any other professor-”
“No other professor would be in Knockturn Alley,” Albus pointed out.
“But still, if it had been,” John continued, “they would’ve demanded to know what we were doing.”
A knock on the door caused all four boys to jump. “Go away, Gemma!” John shouted.
“It’s not Gemma,” a voice said. It was John’s dad. “Can I come in?”
“Uh, sure,” John replied.
The door opened and Mr. Brickston entered. He shut the door behind him and then sat down on the bed, next to Matt.
“Is Mum still mad?” John asked.
Mr. Brickston nodded. “Yes. Look, boys, all she knows is that you didn’t return on time. That’s it. She knows you lied about being at the apothecary, but other than that, she just thinks you were fooling around at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes or something. But I know you weren’t at Weasleys’.”
Albus felt his cheeks grow warm. Going to Knockturn Alley may not have been his idea, but he’d been the one to agree with John, and that had sealed the deal for them.
“Matt, I know you had an allergic reaction to aconite earlier,” Mr. Brickston continued, “and I need to make sure you’re okay. How do you feel?”
“Er, fine,” Matt muttered.
“I need to see your eyes,” Mr. Brickston said quietly.
Matt turned toward him. “I’m fine. I swear. It’s happened before-”
“I’m sure it has,” he replied. “Open your mouth and say ‘ahh.’”
Matt did as he was told, as Albus, John, and Kaden sat silently and waited.
“You weren’t at the apothecary in Diagon Alley,” he went on. “They keep their aconite in sealed jars, as is the proper way to store it. It wouldn’t have given you the full reaction. The faint smell of it may have given you a headache, but nothing more. You went to Knockturn Alley, didn’t you?”
Albus exchanged a glance with John, who looked nervous.
Mr. Brickston turned away from Matt and met his son’s gaze. “Look, I understand the curiosity, but it was very stupid. Don’t do it again. I won’t tell your mother because she doesn’t need the stress, but promise me you won’t ever go there again.”
“I promise,” John said quietly.
John’s dad turned back to Matt. “And Matt, you’re fine now. But if you ever go in an apothecary or store that has aconite stored in an open container, just leave. I’m sure you know this already, but after today I feel I have to tell you. I’m not sure how long you’ve been dealing with this-”
“Almost ten years,” Matt whispered.
Mr. Brickston sighed and shook his head.
“I’m sorry. I know I should’ve left. It was just…it was stupid.”
“Yes, yes it was,” Mr. Brickston agreed.
It was almost as if all four boys agreed silently not to explain why they went to the apothecary. Albus wasn’t sure why since they had no reason to keep Young’s secret of being in Knockturn Alley and going to Borgin and Burkes. For all Albus knew Mr. Brickston would be able to figure out why Young had been there in the first place. But since John didn’t volunteer the information, Albus didn’t either.
John’s dad said nothing for a few minutes, but he didn’t leave, either, so the room remained silent. He kept looking at Matt, as if trying to decide whether to question him further about his lycanthropy.
“I met your sister last year,” he said, finally. “The third year healer students had a rotation in spell damage. I always love having students do rotations with me. They all love spell damage, because, to be honest, it’s probably the most entertaining ward in the hospital. Most of them join the program wanting to become spell damage healers, but your sister didn’t. She was determined to become a Creature-Induced Injury healer and, more specifically, work in the Dai Llewellyn ward. She had no interest in spell damage. I asked her why she was so sure, but she said she couldn’t tell me.”
“I’m why,” Matt said quietly.
“She’s going to make a great healer one day,” John’s dad mused. He stood up. “I’ll leave you boys alone. Matt, if you ever need anything, just send an owl.”
Matt nodded. “Thanks.”
“Good night,” Mr. Brickston said. “I love you, John.”
“Love you, too, Dad,” John said, his cheeks reddening.
Mr. Brickston left, shutting the door as he did so.
“Well, now you know how to find out if someone’s a werewolf,” Matt said. “Just pull out some aconite.”
“I had no idea it would be that bad,” John said quietly. “I’m sorry. We should’ve gone into a different shop.”
“It’s too late now. And I’m fine,” Matt replied. “Your dad even said so.”
“But still,” John continued. “You said you shouldn’t go in and I made you. I’m an idiot.”
“Forget about it. And it’s my fault your dad figured out where we went. It was a stupid thing to do, but it’s over now.”
“At least he didn’t tell Mum,” John muttered.
“You don’t think he’ll tell our parents, do you?” Matt asked nervously.
John shook his head. “Not if he isn’t even going to tell my mum.”
“We’re forgetting what’s really important here,” Kaden interrupted.
“What’s that?” Albus asked.
“Professor Young,” Kaden said. “What the hell was he doing in Borgin and Burkes and how are we going to figure it out?”
“I don’t think we can,” Albus, pulling at a loose string on John’s carpet. “We can’t exactly walk into Borgin and Burkes and ask or go up to Young on September first and demand that he tell us.”
Kaden groaned. “Well, obviously not, but we can be more sneaky about it. Look around his classroom or his study and see if we can find anything suspicious. That sort of thing. We haven’t solved a mystery since Linda. Unless you count Malfoy going into the girls’ toilet last year.”
“I don’t know,” Matt said hesitantly. “Sneaking around a professor’s study? A professor we know very little about except he goes to Knockturn Alley? That’s just asking for trouble.”
“Not if we use Al’s cloak!” Kaden exclaimed. “Or we could have a ghost do it. I bet Myrtle would do it if you asked, Matt.”
Now it was Matt’s turn to groan. “Can’t we just forget about that? I have no plans on even seeing Myrtle this year. She’s crazy.”
“You would be too, if you died on the toilet,” John pointed out.
“Not crazy enough to haunt that same toilet,” Matt said, yawning. “Of all the things you can do as a ghost, she chose to haunt a girls’ toilet at Hogwarts. It’s weird.”
“I heard she haunted the bloke who made fun of her until he went to the Ministry and complained,” Albus added.
“You can do that?” Kaden asked.
Matt nodded. “That’s what the Spirit Division deals with in my dad’s department. Not that they get many complaints. Most ghosts are pretty harmless.”
“Come on, just ask her,” Kaden said. “She’s harmless, like you just said.”
“I never said Myrtle was harmless. Someone complained about her, after all. And I am not going to tell her to search Young’s study for us.”
“Well I can’t imagine Nearly Headless Nick doing it,” Kaden muttered.
“Not if you call him that,” Albus said. “It’s Sir Nicholas DeMimsy-”
“Peeves,” John interrupted. “We can get Peeves to do it. We’ll tell him he can mess up the place while he’s at it.”
Albus groaned and lay down on his sleeping bag. “I want no part of this. None of it.”
“We’ll turn it into a prank,” Kaden decided. “I think I’d rather be a poltergeist than a ghost if I died. What about you lot?”
“Can you even do that?” John asked. “Turn into a poltergeist?”
“I don’t know. But say if you could.”
“Yeah. I’d be a poltergeist. What about you, Al?”
“Ghost,” Albus answered. “So I could haunt people, at least until they went to the Spirit Division about me.”
John laughed. “What about you, Matt?”
Albus, John, and Kaden turned to Matt, who now lay curled up on John’s bed, fast asleep. John poked him, but he didn’t move.
“It’s early,” John said. “It’s not even five. We haven’t had dinner yet.”
“He did have an allergic reaction earlier,” Albus pointed out. “It’s probably that.”
John nodded and slid onto the floor, leaving his entire bed available for Matt to nap on. “All right then, Albus, who would you haunt?”
Albus laughed. “Well, to start with, you lot.”
John and Kaden burst out laughing. Albus grinned. Despite its morbidity, the thought of haunting John and Kaden was incredibly hilarious.
A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews!
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