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Chapter 30 : Search and Seizure
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Albus and his friends spent hours sitting in front of the large beech tree by the lake, pouring over their notes from previous years and rewriting those that were too faded or illegible to be much use. Kaden took pleasure in lording over the fact that he did not have to take his O.W.L.s until the following year and spent half the time skipping stones in the lake rather than studying. The fifth years endured this only because they knew they would get their revenge next year.
“The squid keeps wrecking my skips,” Kaden said as they sat by the lake on the second to last day of the holidays. “I can’t break my record.”
“You’re not going to get any sympathy from us,” Albus replied without looking away from his Herbology notes from third year. Why had he written them so messily?
“Do you want to come with me to brew with Burke tonight?” Kaden asked, ignoring Albus’s comment. “And you, Rose? He told me yesterday to ask you, because he’s got a lot of chopping that needs doing.”
“I suppose,” Albus said. He could use a break from studying anyway.
Rose nodded, but didn’t stop muttering her notes to herself under her breath. She had developed that habit halfway through March; Albus found it very irritating.
“Burke’s getting stranger,” John commented. “Did anyone else notice how much his hands shook last Potions class? And then he knocked over that entire cauldron of Strengthening Solution?”
“He knocked over a vat of armadillo bile in my class last week. Right on top of someone’s chopped lionfish. Made a small explosion and two people had to go to the hospital wing.”
“He’s injured half the school,” Amanda said, shaking her head. “I’m amazed he hasn’t been sacked.”
“He’s a good teacher,” Kaden said. “That education liaison’s got enough to worry about with Young. At least Burke hasn’t been accused of murder.”
“No, he just sells potions illegally,” Amanda muttered under her breath.
Kaden opened his mouth to respond, but thought better of it and returned to skipping stones without saying another word.
Albus would never say it in front of Kaden, but he agreed with Amanda. Burke might be a genius, but he was a liability as a teacher. What if someone wound up seriously injured?
Albus and his friend remained outside studying (or not studying in Kaden’s case) until dinner, then returned to Gryffindor tower to drop off their books before walking to the Great Hall. Professor Burke was missing from the staff table.
“Are you sure he wants us to brew tonight?” Albus asked as they ate dessert. “He’s not even here.”
“He’s probably skipping dinner,” Kaden said. “He made a breakthrough on his mystery potion.”
“He told you that?” Amanda asked skeptically.
Kaden reddened. “No. But I assumed. He kept muttering to himself as he worked on it last night.”
“Come on,” Rose said as she stood up. “Let’s go. I want to have time to study before bed.”
Kaden got up immediately, knocking his fork onto the floor in the process. He hastily picked it up and followed Rose, who was already halfway to the door. Albus looked longingly back at his half-finished slice of chocolate cake and got up to follow.
Professor Burke’s brewing room was smokier than ever when Albus, Kaden, and Rose entered a few minutes later. Albus could hardly see anything, and he coughed as Kaden shut the door behind them. A figure emerged from the smoke, revealing himself to be Burke once he drew closer. He waved his wand and some of the smoke dissipated, enabling them to see where they were going.
Burke clutched a goblet of something, which Albus assumed to be a potion ingredient until Burke drank it, wincing as he did so. His hand shook and he dropped the goblet on the floor, where it landed with a loud crash. He bent to pick it up, but Kaden beat him to it.
“Let me, Professor,” Kaden said, picking up the goblet and handing it to Burke.
“Just put it there,” Burke muttered, gesturing to the nearest table. “You can continue what you started last night. I haven’t moved anything. I’ll leave you to explain it to Potter and Weasley.” Without looking at either Albus or Rose, he shuffled to the table which contained his mystery potion.
Albus noticed Burke was walking with much more difficulty than normal. He usually flitted around the room quickly, as if walking slowly would waste time, time that could be spent on brewing.
“Er, Professor?” Kaden asked. “Are you all right?”
“Fine, fine,” Burke replied without turning around. “Just chop those ingredients. Do the starthistle first.”
Kaden shrugged and led Albus and Rose over to the table in the back, which contained heaps of dried plants. “This is the starthistle,” he said, gesturing to a large pile of pointy, greenish leaves.
Albus, Rose, and Kaden each picked up a knife and began to chop. Albus glanced at Burke every so often, watching as he poured various phials into his mystery cauldron, pausing only to stir it every few minutes. Yet Burke worked much more slowly than usual, his hands shaking as he poured and stirred.
“What do you think’s wrong with him?” Albus whispered.
“I don’t know,” Rose said. “But he’s acting very strangely.”
“He’s just on a breakthrough,” Kaden insisted. “He’s working more carefully because the slightest mistake could blow the whole thing up.”
“Or so you assume,” Rose said. “He’s told you nothing, Kaden. He doesn’t seem the type to confess anything to any of us. He’s kept that potion a secret all year. I still say it could be dangerous.”
“If it was dangerous Kendrick wouldn’t let him have it in the castle,” Kaden pointed out.
“He probably doesn’t know. Balladanis kept that anamatek here for months,” Rose countered.
“This is different! It’s research. Important research that could change-“
Kaden was cut off by a resounding crash, followed by an ominous sizzling noise. Albus dropped his knife, whipped his head around, and saw Professor Burke lying on the floor, his mystery cauldron on its side next to him, frothing, boiling potion pooling next to his feet. He was twitching violently, his limbs thrashing around, spreading the potion as they did.
“Professor!” Rose shouted as she, Albus, and Kaden jumped up to their seats and hurried across the room. “Professor!”
“Professor Burke?” Kaden asked tentatively, bending down next to Burke’s head. “Rose, what’s happening?”
Albus bent down to retrieve the cauldron.
“Don’t touch the potion!” Rose shouted.
Albus stopped, realizing how stupid it was to touch an unknown potion. He stood frozen as Rose bent down over Burke and held his head steady, so that it was the only part of his body that wasn’t moving.
“He’s having a seizure,” Rose said, her voice surprisingly calm. “I need to keep his head steady.”
“How do you know that?” Albus asked, his heart beating fast.
“Books,” Rose answered. “Al, vanish the potion. Now.”
“But it’s his most important one!” Kaden exclaimed, hurrying over to one of the book shelves. “I’ve got to save it!”
“Kaden, right now, we’ve got to save his life,” Rose said. “Go get Madam Pomfrey. Now.”
“After I save the potion,” Kaden insisted, returning with a flask and a pair of dragon hide gloves. He put on the gloves, grabbed his wand, and siphoned as much of the potion up as he could, depositing it in the flask. He set the flask on the nearest table and hurried out of the room.
“Albus, vanish the potion,” Rose said through gritted teeth. Burke was still thrashing violently around.
Albus snapped out of his trance and pointed his wand at the remaining potion. It took four tries, but he managed to vanish what was left. Stowing his wand back in his robes, he watched as Rose held Burke’s head.
It was the scariest thing Albus had ever seen in his life, even scarier than seeing the dead body in Hogsmeade. Burke didn’t seem at all aware of what was happening, but his entire body was writhing and seizing, as if he had been subjected to the Cruciatus Curse. Yet he didn’t seem to be feeling any pain. After what felt like hours, the writhing slowed, until Burke was still. Rose carefully released his head and backed away, standing up as she did so. She glanced at Albus, her eyes wide.
“What now?” Albus whispered.
“We wait for Madam Pomfrey,” Rose answered.
“He’s alive, but he’s not conscious,” Rose said.
The door burst open, revealing Madam Pomfrey and Kaden, who was breathing heavily. The nurse took one look at Burke and immediately knelt down next to him.
“How long was it?” she asked, not bothering to ask exactly what had happened.
“I don’t know,” Rose said. “Five minutes, maybe?”
Madam Pomfrey sighed and waved her wand over Burke, muttering to herself as she did so.
“I held his head steady,” Rose said quietly.
“Good,” Madam Pomfrey replied. She stood up, conjured a stretcher, and waved her wand to move Burke onto it. Then she turned back to Albus, Rose, and Kaden. “It’s a good thing you three were here.”
“Is he going to be okay?” Kaden asked, his voice small.
“I believe so, but I am going to have to transport him to St. Mungo’s immediately,” Madam Pomfrey answered. “There isn’t time to waste. You three ought to return to Gryffindor.”
Madam Pomfrey raised her wand and directed the stretcher out of the room. Albus turned to Rose and Kaden, both of whom were pale.
“We ought to clean up,” Rose muttered as she pointed her wand at the cauldron. She summoned it, caught it, and placed it back on its table. With another wave of her wand, she cleaned up the remaining puddles of potion.
All three were quiet on their walk back to the seventh floor. They didn’t bother going to Gryffindor tower, choosing instead to go straight to the Marauder’s Den, where they knew they would find Matt, John, and Amanda, furiously studying.
Albus opened the door, Rose and Kaden following, and saw the other three huddled around the table, their heads bent low over books. Matt looked up as they entered.
“What happened to you three?” he asked, furrowing his brow, as Kaden collapsed onto the couch.
Albus sat down in the nearest chair. “P-professor Burke. He…he had a seizure.”
Matt’s jaw fell open. “While you were brewing?”
Rose nodded, taking a seat next to Albus. “He just collapsed. He spilled his mystery cauldron all over himself, and then he just started seizing. It went on for at least five minutes.”
“Five minutes?” Matt repeated. “That’s bad. That’s really bad. What did you do?”
Rose told the whole story, from the moment they heard the crash to the moment Madam Pomfrey left with Burke on a stretcher. Matt, John, and Amanda looked as shocked as Albus felt.
“Do you think he’ll be back for class on Monday?” Kaden asked.
“Not a chance,” Matt said quietly. “He’ll be at St. Mungo’s for a while. They’ll need to do tests.”
“Madam Pomfrey seemed to already know what had happened,” Kaden said.
“Maybe he’s had them before,” Matt suggested. “But if he hasn’t, they’ll have to figure out why he had one now. He’ll probably be there for at least a week.”
“How do you know all of that?” Kaden asked.
Matt shrugged. “I had a few after I was bitten, and then after I had to transform in that Ministry center in Australia.”
“Well, you’re okay now. So Burke should be okay, right?” Kaden said anxiously.
“I doubt Burke’s seizures are due to lycanthropy,” Matt pointed out. “I don’t know.”
“I’m going to bed,” Kaden said abruptly, standing up. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He hurried to the door and left without a look back.
Rose sighed. “I do hope Burke comes back, if only for Kaden’s sake. Burke’s something of a hero to him.”
“Amy’s going to be upset, too,” Matt said quietly. “Strange, isn’t it? I’ve never thought about teachers being seriously ill.”
Albus hadn’t either. But Burke was old. Not as old as Slughorn, but he was up there. Albus only hoped that whatever Burke had, it was treatable, because despite the fact that he might be dealing potions illegally and possibly endangering the lives of his students, he was a good teacher. But more than that, Kaden idolized him, and Albus could only imagine how devastated his cousin would be if Professor Burke died.
Despite the fact that Albus and Rose remained in the Marauder’s Den for the remainder of the evening and spoke to no one when they passed through the common room on their way to their dormitories, the whole school knew that Burke had been taken to St. Mungo’s by the following day. Albus suspected people saw Madam Pomfrey guiding him through the castle on the way to the fireplace in the hospital wing and made the correct assumption. Yet, most of the gossip had nothing to do with whether Burke was going to be okay or not, but who would be teaching Potions for the remainder of term.
There was too much time left in the year for Potions to be canceled, so there was much speculation on who would replace Burke. The biggest rumor going around was that Slughorn would come back to either finish up the year or conduct classes until Burke was able to return. Albus didn’t believe this, seeing as the last time Slughorn returned it was only for his own protection from Death Eaters.
“Who else would they get besides Slughorn?” John asked at dinner. “They’ve got to get someone who actually knows enough about potions to teach, like how Albus’s dad always comes back to teach DADA whenever they need someone temporary.”
“Lately all the Defense professors have been temporary,” Matt muttered. “I’m surprised Young has stuck around this long.”
“Well, he might not be around much longer,” Rose said. “Did any of you read today’s Prophet?”
Albus shook his head. “No. They aren’t publishing anything new.”
“But they are. Today there was a really small article about the progress they’ve made on the two murders. It said they have a suspect, one that both witnesses have positively identified.”
“Elsie identified Young?” Albus asked, his stomach turning unpleasantly. “And that other bloke…he must’ve managed to identify Young.”
“They must’ve,” Rose whispered. “If this goes to trial before the end of term, the governors will suspend him.”
“They can do that, even if he hasn’t been convicted yet?”
Rose nodded. “They’ve suspended people for less.”
“But your mum is on the board!”
“It doesn’t matter if he’s guilty or not. This will affect his teaching, Albus.”
“What teaching?” John whispered under his breath. “Great. We’re going to be down two professors two months before O.W.L.s.”
“Nothing’s happened to Young yet,” Rose reminded him. “It might not go to trial until after term ends.”
“Never mind Young,” Amanda said. “What about Potions? We can’t afford not to have class.”
“Maybe Kaden can teach us,” Matt suggested. “He’s better than I am, anyway. Where is he?”
“Last I knew he was trying to convince Madam Pomfrey to let him Floo to St. Mungo’s to visit Burke,” Albus said. “But that was hours ago.”
Kaden had been taking Burke’s sudden illness very hard. Since disappearing into his dormitory the previous night, Albus had only seen him once, when he emerged from it an hour after lunch, looking like he’d only slept an hour at most. Muttering something about going to the hospital wing to see about visiting Burke, he ran out of the common room and Albus hadn’t seen him since.
“You don’t think she actually let him go, do you?” John asked.
“No way,” Matt said.
“I know where he is,” Albus said suddenly, dropping his fork onto his plate. “Come on.”
Albus got up and left the Great Hall, without looking back to see if his friends were following. Halfway through the Entrance Hall John caught up to him. The sound of footsteps behind them told him Matt, Rose, and Amanda weren’t far behind, but Albus didn’t stop to look. He picked up his pace and descended the stairs into the dungeons, heading straight for Burke’s brewing room.
Albus pushed the door open and saw Kaden, just where he expected to, standing over the small cauldron that had held Burke’s mystery potion, a small amount of smoke emanating from it. He didn’t look up. Rose, John, and Amanda hurried into the room, but stopped once they saw the mystery cauldron. Matt hovered in the doorway, muttering something about there being aconite in the room.
“Kaden,” Albus said as he walked over to his cousin.
Kaden startled. “Albus. What are you doing here?”
“What are you doing here?” Albus asked. “Have you been here all day?”
“Since Madam Pomfrey didn’t let me go to St. Mungo’s,” Kaden muttered as he stirred the cauldron. “Someone’s got to look after the potions.”
“But it shouldn’t be you,” Albus said quietly. “You’ve got homework, other classes to worry-“
“It is me, Albus,” Kaden interrupted. “Why do you think Burke wanted research assistants? Isn’t it a bit obvious?”
Albus stared at him, unable to tell whether his face was wet with sweat from the smoke or tears. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know which it was.
“Burke is ill,” Kaden said flatly. “He’s been ill all year. He’s always knocking things over-“
“He’s clumsy,” Albus said. “Matt’s clumsy, too. But he isn’t ill.”
“Well-“ Matt began, from the doorway.
“I mean besides the lycanthropy,” Albus said hurriedly. “But that wasn’t the point.”
“People don’t just randomly have seizures,” Kaden said, adjusting the flame with his wand. “And I overheard Madam Pomfrey talking to Kendrick when I went to the hospital wing this afternoon. She said something about ‘this one being worse than the last one.’ So it wasn’t a one-time thing.”
Albus didn’t know what to say to reassure Kaden, because he thought the same thing. Burke probably was ill. “But that doesn’t mean you’re the one who’s supposed to take care of his potions.”
Kaden sighed. “Why do you think he wanted seventh years? He knew he was ill and he wanted to make sure someone would take care of his potions if he ever had to go to St. Mungo’s. You and Rose are busy all the time and to be honest, I’m a better brewer than you, Al. It’s me. I’ve got to take care of them.”
Albus couldn’t argue with that. He turned to Rose, who had a pained look on her face, but she didn’t say a word. It may have been selfish of Burke, but it appeared that he had meant for Kaden to take over his brewing.
“Did you restart his mystery potion?” John asked, stepping closer to the cauldron.
Kaden nodded. “I managed to save some of it last night, so I put it back on the flames. He didn’t leave any instructions for it, so the best I can do is keep it stewing. I’ve already taken care of the rest.”
“Kaden,” Rose said tentatively. “This is going to be a lot of work. Maybe when the Potions substitute arrives they can-“
“No one else is a world-class brewer like Burke,” Kaden said. “They won’t know the potions.”
“No offense, but neither are you,” Rose said. “You’re a fourth year. You’re the best fourth year, but you’re still a fourth year.”
“I’ve brewed N.E.W.T. level potions before. Burke had me do one at the beginning of the year. And didn’t you tell me your mum brewed Polyjuice in second year? So don’t tell me it isn’t possible for me to be that good.”
“I never said-“
“Just let me do it. I can handle it.”
“I wasn’t going to stop you,” Rose said. “I just think it might be a good idea to ask the new Potions professor for help.”
“If they’re familiar with his work,” Kaden muttered, staring at the mystery cauldron. “But I’ve got to find out what he wants me to do with this one. I searched his entire study and couldn’t find anything about it.”
“You searched his study?” Albus asked, suddenly remembering Burke’s illegal dealings in Polyjuice. “Did you find any evidence he’s been selling his Polyjuice?”
“Really, Albus?” Kaden asked. “He’s lying in St. Mungo’s and you’re still focused on that? But for the record, no.”
“It must be so secretive that he never wrote anything down,” Rose said. “And he never told you anything about it?”
“No. Nothing. But I can’t imagine he’d want me to just leave it. It could be ruined, and it’s obviously important.”
“Then send him an owl,” Rose suggested. “If he’s conscious, they’ll give him his post.”
Kaden nodded, getting up. “Yeah, I’ll do that.”
“Meet us in the Marauder’s Den when you’re done,” Albus said. “You’ve got to get some homework done.”
“Sure,” Kaden said. “I’ll see you in a bit.”
“I can’t believe him!” Rose exclaimed as soon as Kaden’s footsteps had disappeared.
“Who, Kaden?” Albus asked. “He’s just trying to help.”
“No, not Kaden,” Rose said, glaring at the mystery cauldron. “Professor Burke! How thick can he get, expecting a fourth year to take over all of his potions. Stupid. I hope whoever Kendrick gets to replace him knows his research. Kaden can’t do this for the rest of the year.”
“You think Burke will be out for the rest of the year?” John asked.
“I have no idea, but there’s a chance. Let’s go back to the Den. I’m already behind on today’s studying.”
“What about the potion he’s been making for you?” Amanda asked Matt as they left the room. “Kaden can’t make that, can he?”
Matt’s face paled. “I-I don’t know. I guess not.”
Matt didn’t elaborate on the subject, but Albus thought he looked much more nervous than necessary at the prospect of not taking a potion that supposedly wasn’t helping.
A/N: Do you like the pun in the title? It amused me more than it probably should've. Thanks for all the lovely reviews! And a very merry Christmas to all who celebrate!
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