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Chapter 39 : Free
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Matt immediately sat down on the closest bed, breathing heavily. He seemed unable to stop shaking. Albus sat down next to him. “Are you all right?” he asked.
Matt nodded. “I’m…trying…not to…panic. But that…was insane.”
“You were brilliant,” Albus said, still in awe. “The way you shouted at Boone like that.”
“I don’t know what…came over me,” Matt said, his voice cracking. “Boone…he could’ve killed all of us.”
“He didn’t have a wand. Your plan for disarming him was fantastic,” Albus said, grinning. “Lulling him into a false sense of security, bloody brilliant.”
The door to Madam Pomfrey’s study and living quarters burst open, revealing the nurse in a maroon dressing gown, her hair in curlers. Her eyes widened when she saw Harry and the boys, and she threw her hands up into the air as she rushed forward.
“And I honestly thought you’d make it through the year without something happening, again!” she exclaimed. “Night before term ends…what was it this time?”
“They’re fine,” Harry assured her. “They held their own quite well. The man they confronted was cowering on the ground by the time Ron and I arrived.” It was impossible to miss the pride in his voice.
Madam Pomfrey narrowed her eyes as she bent over Matt and put her hand on his forehead. “I’ll be the judge of that, Potter.”
“All we had to do was disarm him,” John said. “It was all Albus and Matt. We didn’t duel him or anything.”
Madam Pomfrey turned away from Matt to look at John, her lips as thin as McGonagall’s often were. “Can’t you stay out of trouble? Who was this man you confronted, anyway?”
Albus turned to Matt, wondering if he wished to explain this time, but he didn’t look like he was in a fit state to do so. Albus took a deep breath and repeated what he’d told his dad earlier. By the end, Madam Pomfrey had gone as white as a ghost and had her right hand pressed against her chest.
“My God,” she whispered. “Matt, why on earth didn’t you come to me? I would’ve looked into it!”
“I had- I had to do it myself,” Matt mumbled.
Madam Pomfrey clucked her tongue, but didn’t reply. She strode over to her potions cupboard and returned with two goblets. She set them on the bedside table.
“What does this mean for Professor Young?” the nurse asked, looking at Harry.
“The verdict will most likely be overturned, after we question Stuart Boone. Whether or not Boone answers our questions or not, the fact that we found Polyjuice and Young’s hair in the Shack will cast enough doubt upon Young’s conviction, especially given it provides a logical explanation as to why my nephew and Elsie Willinson both saw Young that day.”
“Good,” Madam Pomfrey said. “I never thought him capable of murder.”
“What will happen to Young?” Albus asked.
Harry sat down on Albus’s other side. “I don’t know. I do not think he will return to the castle. It may take a few days for him to be released, but he will be released. However, no one will look at him the same again. With time, hopefully, he will be able to settle into a quiet life, but it’s too soon to tell.”
“What about Boone?” Matt asked quietly. “He said…he said he had gone into the Ministry, and then…”
“He had,” Harry answered. “He was in training to become an Auror, actually. I met him a few times prior to his encounter with the werewolf.”
“And he just, lost everything?” Matt said. “The Ministry just dropped him?”
“Do not take his words to heart, Matt,” Harry said sharply. “Boone told you his side, and I am sure he warped the story in order to gain pity. It is true he was dropped from the Auror Academy; the Auror Academy does not accept werewolves due to the physical requirements of training and then working as an Auror. It would be incredibly difficult for a werewolf to cope. Then there is the issue of long missions, and how the full moon fits in.”
Matt nodded, looking upset.
“But that does not mean he couldn’t have transferred departments,” Harry continued. “It would’ve been difficult, don’t get me wrong, but possible. No, he would not have had the life of glory he believed he was entitled to, but he would’ve had a better life than the life he condemned himself to. Stuart Boone, while he did not have family any longer, had friends, friends who were utterly confused when Stuart disappeared. He could have gone to them for help, but he preferred to believe they would’ve ditched him and ditch them himself, rather than take the risk.”
“The Ministry really would’ve kept him?” Matt asked. “They hire werewolves?”
Harry sighed. “If Boone had been a werewolf prior to his going into the Ministry, I am not sure he would’ve been hired by a single department. It is up to the Head of the department in question. But everyone in the Ministry knew Boone. He was intelligent and logical. Rose’s mum was particularly fond of him. Someone would’ve taken him in.”
“Oh.” Matt sounded disappointed. “So there isn’t much chance I’d be-“
“I don’t want to get your hopes up,” Harry said quietly. “Until the laws change-“
“I have hardly a chance at all,” Matt finished. “I get it.”
“I need to get to the Ministry,” Harry said, as he stood up. “Al, I’ll see you tomorrow for Bradley and Mark’s graduation. Good night.”
“Good night, Dad,” Albus said, giving his dad a quick hug.
Madam Pomfrey shut the door after Harry left and returned to the bed where Albus and Matt were sitting. She picked up the potions on the bedside table.
“Albus, John, Kaden, the three of you are fine. You can return to Gryffindor, and please do not do anything stupid in your last sixteen hours in the castle.” She turned to Matt, her gaze softening. “Matt, you’re staying here tonight. I have your regular potion, as well as dreamless sleep. You may return tomorrow for breakfast.”
Matt either knew not to argue with the nurse, or didn’t want to, for he took both the potions without comment, and laid down as soon as Albus stood up.
Albus, John, and Kaden said goodbye to Matt and left the hospital wing for Gryffindor tower. Albus felt incredibly light as they walked, as if Young’s wrongful imprisonment had been a weight pressing down on his chest. But now, Young would be freed and O.W.L.s were over. All he had left to do was look forward to summer.
Despite Albus, John, and Kaden only giving the full details of what happened in the Shrieking Shack to Rose and Amanda, the entire school knew it was the three of them, along with Matt, who discovered Stuart Boone and found the evidence that would release Professor Young. The following morning’s article in the Prophet did not name the boys, but somehow word got out.
“It wasn’t hard to figure out, Al,” James said when Albus asked him about it at breakfast. James handed Albus a copy of the Prophet. “You and your friends get involved with stuff like this every single year. And you were mysteriously missing from the end of exams party in the common room last night, showing up after midnight.”
“You could’ve been killed,” Rose said, shaking her head. She had thoroughly berated them after they returned to the common room, but apparently her disgust had not been diminished by a good night’s sleep.
“But we weren’t,” John said, shrugging.
“You never wanted to go in the first place,” Rose said. “I never thought you’d be the voice of reason. But then you went anyway.”
“Matt was going either way. We couldn’t just let him go alone.”
Albus tuned out their argument and turned to the article in the paper.
NEW EVIDENCE IN MURDER CASE; YOUNG TO BE RELEASED
Evidence procured late last night has cast doubt upon the
verdict given by the Wizengamot of Elliot Young, former
Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts School
of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The guilty verdict, read less than
a week ago, is now being overturned. Young is expected to be
released from Azkaban Prison later today.
Four Hogwarts students (names withheld due to their age)
were found in the Shrieking Shack in Hogsmeade, Scotland
last night, after confronting Stuart Boone, 26. For a brief
biography of Boone, see page eleven. It is unclear why the
students ventured to the Shrieking Shack. Boone, a former
Trainee Auror, was arrested for identity theft and trespassing.
Upon later questioning at the Ministry, Boone confessed to
using Polyjuice Potion to turn into Elliot Young for the past
ten months, as well as squatting in the Shrieking Shack.
‘It wasn’t Young who was seen running from the Shack
after Michael Sheldon was murdered in December,’ Head
Auror Johnson said to reporters after the confession. ‘That
Aurors declined to comment on whether Boone is now a suspect
in Michael Sheldon’s murder case.
It is unclear why Boone was living in the Shrieking Shack. The
Shack is owned by Hogwarts, although it has been abandoned
since it was built in the early 1970s. No one is sure of why it was
built, and current headmaster Fabius Kendrick attributes it to
former headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s eccentricities.
‘On behalf of the Auror Department, the Wizengamot, and the
entire Ministry, I offer my sincerest apologies to Elliot Young,’
Minister Laurentis said early this morning. ‘The investigation
of both the Hogsmeade and Knockturn Alley murders will
continue until justice is served.’
“Is that the article about last night?”
Albus set down the article and turned to see Matt sitting down next to him, looking much better than he had the previous night. “Yes,” Albus said, handing it to him.
“They didn’t name us,” Matt said after he read it. “So why is it that everyone was staring at me as I walked down here?”
“Because James figured it out,” Albus said. “I don’t mind. We got Young out of Azkaban, and that’s a good thing.”
“It says Boone confessed,” Matt said in awe. “I didn’t think he would.”
“What you said to him must’ve sunk in,” Albus said, shrugging. “None of the rest of us could’ve done that. You’re the one who wanted to go down there and confront him, you came up with the plan to disarm him-“
“Which we didn’t really need,” Matt interrupted. “His hands are so messed up a first year could’ve disarmed him.”
“But you didn’t know that going in,” Albus said. “And you were the one who convinced him to confess. That was all you. You’re the one who freed Young.”
“I suppose…” Matt said, his cheeks turning red.
“There’s no supposing,” Albus said adamantly. “If it weren’t for you wanting to go confront Boone, Young would still be in Azkaban. That took courage.”
“Or stupidity,” Matt said as he buttered a few slices of toast.
“It wasn’t stupid!” Albus said, groaning. “It-“ But he cut himself off when he saw Matt grinning.
“Gryffindor courage,” Matt said. “It’s got just an ounce of stupidity, but everything always works out. Look at your dad.”
Albus laughed. “Good point.”
The rest of the day went by fast. After breakfast the boys hurried back to their dormitories to pack, having saved the task to the last minute as usual. Billius and Ethan pressed Albus, Matt, and John for details about their trip to the Shrieking Shack and they obliged, to a point. They left out Matt’s discussion about lycanthropy with Boone, telling Billius and Ethan instead that they didn’t know what convinced Boone to confess.
Albus and Rose attended yet another Hogwarts graduation while Kaden visited Professor Burke for the last time before summer, and the rest of the group wandered around the grounds. Albus didn’t pay much attention to the speeches, instead thinking about what would happen to Stuart Boone. Albus sincerely hoped that Boone wouldn’t be framed for Sheldon’s murder. If the Ministry wasn’t half as corrupt as Albus suspected it to be, there was no possible way the Wizengamot could convict him. But then again, Albus had thought the same about Young, who had an ironclad alibi.
They boarded the Hogwarts Express in the early afternoon and John secured a compartment for them, after kicking out two second years who were attempting to duel each other. Rose reprimanded them and sent them on their way, looking the other way about the fact that John had ejected them from the compartment.
“How is Professor Burke?” Rose asked Kaden as the train sped out of Hogsmeade and into the countryside.
Kaden shrugged. “No worse, but no better. His hands shake so much he can hardly pour ingredients into a cauldron, let alone chop and slice things. He broke down and hired an assistant for the summer. He wanted me to do it, but my house isn’t hooked up to the Floo Network, so I couldn’t say yes.”
“It’ll be nice to have a break, though, won’t it?” Rose asked.
Kaden looked as if he wanted nothing more than to spend the summer brewing potions with his hero. “He told me next year is going to be his last year teaching, unless he comes up with a cure. He’ll be too ill to teach after next year.”
“It’s just so awful,” Rose whispered.
“Exploding Snap?” John asked after a few minutes of silence. “Or something? Anything to take our minds off Burke. It’s depressing. He’s a brewing genius. He’ll find a cure.”
“Sometimes there just isn’t a cure to find,” Matt said quietly, staring out the window.
“Are you still thinking about Boone?” Albus asked as he reached into his trunk and pulled out a pack of Exploding Snap cards. He handed them to John.
Matt nodded. “I read that biography of him in the Prophet. He had everything, and then it was gone. He might be a coward, but still…it was like looking into my own future.”
“Your future will not be like that,” Albus said. “You heard what my dad said. Boone may not have chosen to become a werewolf, but everything that happened after that, those were his choices. He chose to abandon his friends. He chose to abandon his career.”
“Because he was afraid!” Matt said, turning away from the window to look at his friends. “And what he said about understanding…about not being able to understand unless you’ve been there, he was right about that. I understand where he’s coming from. I understand the fear. I get it because I live it. I’m terrified…bloody terrified about what will happen when I leave Hogwarts.”
Albus hated that there was nothing he or Rose or anyone could do to take away that fear. “But the difference is you won’t be alone. You’ll have us, and your parents, and Amy, and even my parents! You know they’d do anything to help you.”
“That stupid law won’t be around forever,” Amanda said.
“Boone is a coward,” Albus said. “That’s the biggest difference between you and him. The Sorting Hat put you in Gryffindor for a reason, and you proved it last night. You proved it when you came to Hogwarts, despite everything that had happened in Australia. You might be an awful dueler, but you’ve got more courage than half the Gryffindors at Hogwarts.”
“None of it means you’re weak,” Rose said quietly. “Not the anxiety, not the PTSD, none of it. It just means you’ve been through more than most adults, and that you got through it.”
Matt nodded, but didn’t reply.
“Come on,” John said as he started dealing cards. “Exploding Snap. Let’s celebrate. We’re N.E.W.T. students now! We’ll have so much free time next year.”
Rose laughed. “Seriously? That free time is for doing all the homework. If you thought they piled it on this year you haven’t seen anything yet.”
“Rose is right,” Albus agreed. “None of my cousins have ever come home after sixth year bragging about all the free time they have.”
John sighed. “Still, we’ll get to Apparate next year.”
“Jealous,” Kaden said. “You lot get to Apparate and I’ll have to do O.W.L.s.”
Albus grinned. “Just wait. We’re going to get our revenge for all your gloating.”
“And the year after next I’ll gloat while you study for your N.E.W.T.s. It’s a vicious circle.”
“We’re getting ahead of ourselves,” John said. “We’ve got to figure out summer first.”
“Everyone should come to my house,” Albus said as he tossed a card into the middle of their circle.
“Sure,” Matt said, adding a card to the pile. “My parents are dragging me to Australia at beginning of July until right before the July full moon, but I can visit after.”
“I’ll stay as long as your parents will let me,” John said. “Gemma is going to be unbearable this summer. She’s starting Hogwarts in September.”
“So are Samantha and Lindy,” Albus said. “Georgia, Bradley, and Cedric’s little sisters.”
“And Bethany,” Kaden said. “If she’s a witch, that is. I think she probably is, since last summer she blew up the TV when her favorite program wasn’t on. Aunt Marge ran from the house. I thought she might never come back, but I don’t have that kind of luck.”
Albus laughed. “Gryffindor won’t know what hit it. Samantha and Lindy are quite the pranksters. They switch places all the time at their Muggle school. It drives their teachers mad.”
“I wish I had a twin,” Kaden said, carefully placing his card on top of Matt’s. The cards exploded, covering his face in ash. Groaning, he pulled out his wand and siphoned the ash off his face while John repaired the cards.
The group played Exploding Snap until Albus and Rose had to leave to patrol the corridor. When they returned, John and Kaden were deep in a whispered conversation (most likely about pranks for the following year), Amanda was curled up with a book, and Matt was asleep, his head leaning against the window.
Albus sat down next to Matt and stared out the window, watching the scenery go by. It was hard to believe that fifth year was over, that it had been nearly a year since he received his prefect’s badge, and nearly a year since he made Gryffindor’s dueling team. So much had changed since then, but so much had stayed the same. John had discovered he could buckle down and study if he decided to. Kaden further explored his passion, brewing, and was now even more determined to make it a reality. Yet, both of them still focused most of their attention on brewing. Rose and Amanda still wanted to change the world, but both narrowed that down into specific careers. Matt had discovered his underlying bravery, yet still fought against the affects of his lycanthropy every day. And what about Albus, himself? A year ago he hadn’t known what he wanted to do for a career, but the one he picked didn’t seem all that different from what he did now. He would solve mysteries and help others at the same time. But he knew he had changed as well. At the beginning of the year, he never would’ve thought he would step into his role as a prefect, and assume the authority that had been thrust upon him, but he had done just that after the Hogsmeade Murder. Sometimes, Albus thought, change was good.
As Albus gazed around the compartment he smiled. Things may have changed, but the most important thing had stayed the same. He and his friends were as close as they’d been in first year, if not closer. They were there for each other, and always would be, for the rest of their lives.
A/N: First, I just want to apologize for not posting this yesterday. I worked over 12 hours and then when I left my second job, I found out my former roommate had to put one of her cats to sleep. When I lived there, he was just as much my cat as hers, and he was only two. So, amidst that, I forgot. But it's here now.
Second, I know you'll all be asking when the sixth one is coming! For that I do not have an answer. I have a vague plot idea, but nothing concrete and nothing I want to discuss right now. It will get written and posted eventually, though. In the mean time, I am working on a short Neville/Hannah fic that deals with the effects of the war. It's called Tipperary Hill, so be on the look out for that!
Third, thank you for reading and being such loyal reviewers! You guys are all amazing.
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