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Chapter 18 : Nargles
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Transfiguration wasn’t much better, but Patil had them turning handbags into hats, so it was easy to slack off and not have it be noticed. Albus was very grateful for his free period after lunch and happily remained at the Gryffindor table eating his last bites of pudding while Rose set off for Muggle Studies and Kaden set off for Charms.
“Shall we go see if Matt’s awake?” Amanda asked after setting her plate aside.
“Yeah, c’mon, Albus,” John said, standing up.
Albus nodded and followed them out of the Great Hall.
“So, did you find anything else fishy about Burke last night?” John asked as they walked up to the Hospital Wing.
“Nope,” Albus said. They’d decided to no longer discuss their suspicions about Burke in front of Kaden, but that didn’t give them very much time to do so. “He disappeared into his study while we sorted the fluxweed, though. Who knows what he’s up to in there.”
John grinned mischievously. “Sounds like a job for the Invisibility Cloak.”
“Absolutely not,” Albus said. “He’d catch me. Plus, his door’s locked all the time, and it takes more than Alohomora to open it.”
“Try for it when you’re already in there. Say you’re going to the loo, leave, then come back with the cloak on. Sneak in, have a look, sneak back out, and come back from the loo.”
“That-” Albus paused, thinking about it. His first thought was that the plan was ridiculous, but it might actually work. “That could work.”
“Told you,” John said. “Do it next time you’re there. Just don’t tell Rose.”
“Somehow I don’t think Rose would care as much as Kaden,” Albus said. Rose seemed to have lost most of her respect for Professor Burke after doing her research about selling potions.
“What do you think you’d even find in his study?” Amanda asked. She looked skeptical.
“Records of him selling Polyjuice?” Albus suggested.
Amanda laughed. “If he’s doing something illegal, I doubt you’re going to find records of it at Hogwarts.”
“Then where would he have them?”
“He wouldn’t,” Amanda said. “You’re not going to find evidence of him doing anything illegal. He’d be doing it under the table, coins only.”
“Then maybe I’d be looking for a pile of gold,” Albus said.
Amanda sighed. “Again, why would he store a load of gold at Hogwarts?”
“Safest place in the world, Hagrid always says.”
“Only if the Headmaster is in on it. Plus, think about everything famous that has ever been stored at Hogwarts. They’ve all been stolen, or people have at least tried. The Sorcerer’s Stone. Ravenclaw’s diadem. The Elder wand. Stuff never stays hidden here.”
Albus stared at her. “How do you know all that? You’re Muggle-born.”
“I read. It’s all in Hogwarts, a Revised History. Point is, I don’t think you’ll find anything in that study.”
“Still worth a shot,” John muttered.
“You’re looking on the wrong end of things,” Amanda said as they reached the Hospital Wing. “You’re not going to find answers with Burke. You have to think about where the Polyjuice is going, who he’s selling it to.”
Albus followed Amanda into the Hospital Wing. He hadn’t thought about it like that, but Amanda had a point. If Burke was doing anything illegal, he wouldn’t want evidence of it laying around. But whoever he was selling the potion to would have the evidence right there with them. They’d have the potion. But how would he figure out who Burke was selling to?
“But that’s even more difficult,” Albus muttered as John shut the door behind them.
“Everything always is,” John said.
For once, the Hospital Wing was quiet. Nobody was queued up for an antidote for some potion that exploded in Burke’s classroom. No one appeared to be faking sick to get out of a test. Of the two beds occupied, only one had curtains pulled around it. The other contained a small girl who couldn’t have been older than a first year. Madam Pomfrey sat at her desk, scrawling on a piece of parchment.
“He should be awake,” the nurse said without looking up.
Albus pulled back the curtains and saw that Matt was, in fact, awake.
“Hey,” he said as Albus, Amanda, and John crowded in and pulled the curtains closed once more.
Matt looked exhausted. His arm was in a sling and there was a purplish bruise just above his left eyebrow.
“Hi,” Albus said. “How are you?”
Matt shrugged. “I think you might be right about the potion, Amanda.”
“That bad?” she asked, not looking at all happy that she was right.
“Not as bad as last time, but still bad,” Matt answered. “I just feel really strange. And awful. Listen, I’m sorry about freaking out about you going to the forest, Al-”
“Don’t apologize,” Albus said. “You were right. It was stupid. We shouldn’t have gone.”
Matt’s eyes grew wide. “What happened?”
“Nothing,” Albus said quickly. “Nothing like that. It was just…creepy.”
“Did you find the fluxweed?”
“Lots of it. But I won’t do it again.”
“Are you still going to take the potion, Matt?” Amanda asked, looking very concerned. “I don’t think you should. You don’t know what sort of long-term effects it’ll have.”
“Madam Pomfrey sent an owl to Amy. She’s supposed to come see me later. What time is it?”
Albus consulted his watch. “Almost two.”
“She should be here soon, then.”
As if on cue, the Hospital Wing doors opened. Albus stuck his head through the curtains and saw Amy walking toward Madam Pomfrey. Albus hadn’t seen Amy in at least a year. She looked like a proper healer now, dressed in lime green robes and her hair done up in a messy ponytail. She had a quill stuck in it. Her wand was sticking out of her bag.
“She’s here,” Albus said, turning back to his friends. “Should we leave?”
“No,” Matt said. “She might want to talk to Professor Burke, though. So you might want to.”
John laughed. “Thanks for the warning.”
Albus heard footsteps getting closer and the curtains were pulled back, revealing Amy and Madam Pomfrey.
“Oh, Albus. John, Amanda,” Amy said, smiling. “Nice to see you again.”
Now that she was up close, Albus could see a blue patch on the front of her robes which stated ‘Amy Eckerton- Trainee Healer.’ “You, too,” he said. “How’s training?”
“Oh, it’s wonderful.” She grinned. Her smile faded upon seeing Matt, however. “Matt, how bad is it?”
“It wasn’t just the blue moon,” he said quietly. “The potion’s got nasty side effects.”
Amy nodded and turned to Madam Pomfrey. “Any chance you could get Professor Burke up here?”
“He’s teaching,” the nurse said. “I spoke with him earlier. He’ll be done at three-thirty, when classes end. He’s got a double period right now.”
Amy checked her watch and sighed. “Okay. I can wait that long, but I need to speak with him immediately after his class ends.”
Albus was impressed by how grown-up Amy sounded. He supposed he shouldn’t have been surprised because Victoire sounded very similar, especially when she was clad in her healer robes. Albus had seen his cousin at St. Mungo’s once, over the summer, when James had accidentally affixed a gnome to Lily’s back with a permanent sticking charm. At least, James had claimed it was accidental.
“Albus, John, Amanda,” Madam Pomfrey said, “the three of you better get your books and go to class.”
Right, class. Albus had nearly forgotten he still had Care of Magical Creatures to attend. “We’ll come back later, after dinner,” Albus said.
“Okay,” Matt replied. “See you later.”
Albus, John, and Amanda said goodbye to Matt and Amy and headed up to Gryffindor to grab their Care of Magical Creatures stuff before heading back down to the grounds for class.
Matt spent two days in the hospital wing, returning during breakfast on Thursday. After a lengthy discussion between Amy, Healer Sterling, and Professor Burke, it was decided that Matt wouldn’t take the potion until Burke tweaked it, something he insisted he’d have done by December’s full moon.
A light blanket of snow fell over Hogwarts during the first weekend of December, coinciding perfectly with the announcement of December’s Hogsmeade visit. The visit was to be on December 19th, the Saturday before term ended. The announcement cheered the castle greatly, something that was needed since students of all years were bogged down by more homework than they’d have liked.
Albus, however, was looking forward to an easy month. December’s Quidditch match was to be between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, giving Gryffindor a break from matches until after the holiday. Bradley eased up on practice, something none of Gryffindor’s previous captains had done, but it was a welcomed break for the whole team. December also lacked a dueling tournament, and while dueling practices were never mandatory, it was nice not to have the pressure of an upcoming tournament.
“Where have you lot been?”
Albus, Matt, and John had just entered the Great Hall for lunch on the first Sunday of the month, after having slept through breakfast. Rose stood in front of them near the Gryffindor table, looking upset.
“Er, sleeping?” John said, shrugging as he sat down and started filling his plate.
“What’s happened?” Albus asked, sitting down next to John.
Rose ran to the other side of the table and sat across from Albus. She handed him a copy of the Prophet. “Look. A witness has come forward.”
“A witness to what?” Albus took the paper and unfolded it.
“Is your memory really that awful?” Rose said, sighing. “To the murder!”
“That was months ago,” Albus said. He’d nearly forgotten about Steven Cousins’ murder.
“It hasn’t exactly been in the paper much,” Matt said.
“Well, let’s see it,” John said.
Albus flattened the paper over his still empty plate. A large photograph of Cousins, in his Falcons uniform, waving at a non-existent crowd, was splayed across the front.
WITNESS COMES FORWARD IN COUSINS MURDER
The Department of Magical Law Enforcement received an anonymous
tip on Friday from a wizard who claims to have witnessed the murder of
Steven Cousins, former Seeker of the Falmouth Falcons. The murder
occurred on September 30th in Knockturn Alley, London. Cause of
death was later attributed to blood loss, due to the violent nature of
“Notice they don’t want to say he had his throat sliced,” Rose said. “Amanda’s in the library checking the article from October. I swear they reported it was a knife. Keep reading.”
The case, previously thought to be cold, has not gone anywhere
since late October. No suspects or motives have been discovered. Until
Friday, there were no suspects. When questioned, the MLEs revealed
‘Of course it changes things,’ Head Auror, Johnson, told reporters.
‘The witness does not want his name in print, but he claims to have
witnessed the murder. He will be questioned by MLEs on Monday.
We will reveal more information as we can, but this is an on-going
murder investigation. Rest assured it is being handled.’
“Weird,” Albus said as he folded the paper up. “It’s been two months. Why would someone come forward now?”
“I know,” Rose agreed. “It’s very odd.”
“He could be lying,” John said.
“But why would he lie about that?” Matt asked.
“Maybe he’s covering for someone else,” Rose said. “Maybe the case hadn’t gone cold and the Aurors were close to figuring something out and the witness is lying to knock them off the path.”
“Then why would they report that the case had gone cold?” Albus asked.
“Because the Prophet is in the Ministry’s pocket. It always has been,” Rose said. “Remember what my mum has told us?”
“Right.” Albus nodded. He turned to Matt and John. “During the war, the Prophet just printed whatever the Ministry wanted. Over half of it wasn’t even true.”
“So, we can’t trust this,” Rose said.
“I’m back,” Amanda said, sitting down next to Rose. “You were right. They did say it was a sliced throat in that old article.”
“I knew it!” Rose exclaimed. “This is all so strange.”
“Do you think your dad would tell us anything?” John asked Albus.
Albus laughed. “No way. It’s probably classified. It’s an on-going investigation.”
“I don’t like it,” Rose said as she made herself a sandwich. “There’s something not right about this whole thing.”
“Of course not. Someone got murdered, Muggle-style,” Matt said.
“And that in itself is very strange. Add in the fact that there aren’t any clues…
“Avada Kedavra is clean,” Rose said. “More than a few people have written scathing editorials about it making it easy for people to murder, saying it gets rid of anything messy. Anyone who says that doesn’t understand the spell, because you can’t perform it successfully unless you mean it, unless you have it in you to kill. Any of us could point our wands at someone and say it and nothing would happen. But it is clean. For someone who has the capability to murder, it’s a clinical way of doing it. Slicing someone’s throat is not.”
“But what does that mean?” Albus asked.
“It means that they’re either insane,” Rose said, “because no one who’s right in the head cleanly slices a random person’s neck and leaves them there to die. Or there’s a reason they didn’t want to use magical means. Or a reason they couldn’t.”
“You mean like a Muggle? But how would a Muggle get into Knockturn Alley?” Amanda asked.
“They couldn’t, unless they were with a wizard.”
“What about a Squib?” John suggested.
“It’s possible, but Squibs are rare, so it’s not likely. Plus, what would one have against a Quidditch player?”
“What would anyone have against a Quidditch player?” John asked. “It doesn’t make sense.”
“What I want to know,” Amanda began, “is what Steven Cousins was doing in Knockturn Alley in the first place. It’s doesn’t sound like the sort of place you go for a leisurely stroll.”
That was a good question, and it hadn’t even crossed Albus’s mind. What was a Quidditch player doing in Knockturn Alley? Every single store there was sketchy.
“I’m sure the MLEs have thought of it,” Matt said.
“I wish there was some way we could find out new information,” Rose said. “A way without the Prophet, that is.”
“What about Luna’s magazine?” Albus suggested, suddenly thinking of his parents’ weird friend, Luna Lovegood-Scamander.
“The Quibbler? Possibly. I haven’t read that in ages. I don’t know if Luna would write an article on a brutal murder, though. She usually sticks with little-known magical beings.”
“But she might if we suggested it,” Albus said, grinning. “I think we ought to send her a letter.”
“Now that, is genius,” Rose said. “Shall we go to the owlery?”
Albus stuffed the last bite of sandwich into his mouth. “We shall.”
Kaden, who had just sat down in between Rose and Amanda, looked from Rose to Albus and back again. “Who is Luna Lovegood-Scamander and what the hell is a Quibbler?”
Albus and Rose burst out laughing. Matt, John, and Amanda looked equally confused. Albus and Rose exchanged grins.
“Well, Luna Lovegood-Scamander is one of our parents friends from school,” Rose began, “and the first thing you have to know about her is that she believes in nargles.”
“What’s a nargle?” Matt asked.
That sent Albus and Rose into another round of laughter. Albus hadn’t seen Luna since the summer, yet he had a sudden desire to take a trip to her odd-shaped house and eat a meal of plimpies and dirigible plums.
“That didn’t take long,” Albus said as he watched his owl soaring down from the rafters at breakfast the next day.
“Think it’s from Luna?” Amanda asked.
“Must be. I haven’t sent anyone else post recently,” Albus said.
The owl landed in between Albus and Amanda’s plates. Albus fed him a bit of toast and took the small parcel off his leg. Rose, Matt, John, Amanda, and Kaden crowded around him as he unwrapped it.
Receiving post from Luna Lovegood-Scamander was never just simply receiving a letter. On the rare occasion Albus sent Luna a letter, she reciprocated with some sort of bizarre baked good made out of a never heard of plant, or the plant itself. Albus’s parents had been on the receiving end of many of Luna’s packages and they now boasted a small forest of weird plants in their living room.
“Wonder what she’s sent this time,” Albus said as he opened the small box.
The box was filled with what looked like hazelnuts, but knowing Luna, weren’t actually hazelnuts. Tucked next to them was a folded piece of parchment. Albus extricated and unfolded it on his empty plate.
“What are these?” Kaden asked as he picked up a hazelnut type thing.
“Don’t eat it yet,” Albus said quickly. “It’ll say in the letter what they are.”
“C’mon, let’s hear it!” John said.
‘Dear Albus Severus-’
“Severus?” John exclaimed. “I’d forgotten that was your middle name.”
“That’s what I’d been hoping for when you found out,” Albus muttered. He wished he had a normal middle name to go with his bizarre first name.
“Man, Albus and Severus. That’s quite the name.”
“Luna likes calling us all by our full names,” Rose explained. “Go on, Al.”
“It was lovely to hear from you. I’m very glad you’re having a good year so far. Have you been able to go into the forest yet? Remember, next time you go, bring some meat for the thestrals. They get lonely, and do enjoy occasional visits from students, even those who can’t see them.
“‘The twins are doing wonderfully. Thank you for asking. Lysander has developed a habit of plucking the dirigible plums before they’re ripe, so Rolf and I have had to keep a closer watch on him. Lorcan as well, since he likes to investigate the printing press. Rolf left on a research trip the other day and won’t be back until Christmas. He is investigating a pack of wild hippogriffs in Russia.
“‘As for your request, I have been keeping up to date on the details of the Knockturn Alley murder. The Quibbler tends to steer clear of that sort of thing, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t write an article about it if one needed to be written. After all, my father printed articles about your father when needed. I’d be very interested in hearing more. Can we meet in Hogsmeade during your December Hogsmeade visit? Let me know the date and a time.
“‘Love, Luna. P.S. As always, don’t let the nargles get you down.”
“Nargles.” Rose sighed. “Always with the nargles.”
“I blame nargles for failing that Transfiguration exam the other day,” Kaden said.
Rose groaned. “I regret telling you about nargles.”
“Nargles seem perfectly plausible,” Kaden said. “I mean, we’re at a magic school, for God’s sake.”
“That’s a good point. How can things like spells and Polyjuice potion be real, but people scoff at things like nargles? Luna wrote an article about that a few years ago,” Rose said. “She made some good points.”
“Can we forget about nargles for a minute?” Albus asked. “Luna’s offering to possibly write an article. Do you all want to come with me to talk to her?”
“She sounds awesome,” Kaden said. “Definitely want to come.”
“Just not for the whole day,” Matt said. “This is my first Hogsmeade visit of the year. I don’t want to spend the whole time talking about a murder.”
“Let’s meet her at noon,” Albus suggested. “That’ll give us time to wander after we’re done.”
Everyone agreed. Albus hoped Luna would bring her twins, who had just turned four. Since Rolf was away, she probably would, but then, who would bring their four-year-olds to talk about a murder? If anyone would, it’d be Luna. Chances were Lorcan and Lysander would spend the whole meeting running around the Three Broomsticks anyway.
“Maybe she’ll teach us how to catch nargles,” Kaden said.
“Nargles are invisible,” Rose explained. “At least, Luna says they are.”
“There’s still got to be a way. Some sort of nargle charm. Nargelus revelio or something.”
Albus burst out laughing. Kaden had known about magic for over three years, but his seemingly unending amazement at it still amused Albus to no end.
A/N: Thanks for all the reivews! I'm getting backed up with answering them again, but I've read them all and will respond soon (hopefully).
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