Chapter 4 : The Hogwarts Express
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“Albus, you eavesdropped?” Rose said in disbelief. Albus, Rose, and Art whispered among each other about the exciting news Albus had just unveiled: a dementor had escaped from a prison of some sort. Aunt Hermione, Al’s mum, James, Lily, and Hugo were nearby, so Albus had to converse in whispers as they walked back to the Leaky Cauldron. Luckily, Aunt Hermione and Al's mum were talking together, Lily was talking to Hugo, and James was whispering excitedly to John, who they had run into at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.
“I didn't exactly eavesdrop,” Albus whispered. “They weren't trying to keep their voices down. Plus, I'll probably learn much more in the Prophet tonight than a special type of dementor was released from some prison.”
“It could be classified,” Art pointed out.
“If it was, Aunt Ginny wouldn't know. Plus, the media would figure out something was going on. The Auror Office will have to tell them something,” Rose stated in her smart, matter-of-factly way.
“Hey, er, Albus...” Art began. “What exactly is a dementor?”
“Oh, I forgot you wouldn't know! It's a creature like thing er, well...” Albus dropped his cheerful tone. “It is a creature that makes every happy thought sad. It can bring back bad memories, and if you're around it long enough it can drive you insane. Sometimes it will "kiss" you, very rarely, meaning it sort of, well, sucks out your soul." Art looked horrified. Albus turned away his glance, and shifted his feet uncomfortably. Albus had always known about dementors, so it wasn't anything new, but it must be a horrifying concept to a muggle-born.
If the regular type of dementor was bad, how bad was the "special" type of dementor? The Auror department did not demand every member if it was anything but bad. So what made it special? Was it more powerful? Could it travel quicker? Could it kiss entire towns? Even a regular dementor was terrifying. How many Azkaban prisoners had gone insane when the dementors were in charge of the prison? Almost all of them.
With these dark thoughts, Albus said goodbye to his friends in the Leaky Cauldron. Art's mum came the muggle way (through some device called The Tube) and finally just Albus, James, Lily, and their mum were left. After saying goodbye to Hannah Longbottom, the landlady, they stepped into the fireplace and flooed home.
Albus ate his dinner in record time but stayed seated at the table, and flickered his eyes frequently to the window in search of an owl. Normally Al didn't really care about the newspaper, but today he did. James and their mum kept glancing at the window too. Only Lily seemed to be completely unconcerned and unaware.
A little while later, when only Lily was still picking at her food, a brown owl, distant but distinguishable, appeared in the evening sky. All of them except Lily jumped up out of their seats towards the window. James kept trying to elbow Albus out of the way. Albus scrowled at him and gabbed his elbow into James's side.
Their mum, the tallest and with the longest arm, grabbed the newspaper first. Al opened his mouth to protest, but his mum interrupted.
“Calm down you two, I’ll put a duplication charm on the newspaper. Geminio!” Two more newspapers were produced right underneath the original. James and Albus dived towards them, and Albus snatched up one of them and quickly scanned the headline. It stated: POWERFUL DEMENTOR ILLEGALLY RELEASED FROM "ETERNAL" PRISON. That sounded bad. Albus read the following article.
On Friday afternoon, the Argentine’s government's tracing spells detected a source of dark magic in central Antarctica. Teams from Argentina and Australia, each with ten members, apparated to the pinpointed spot, and all returned to their respective countries less than a minute later, shaking with fear. They all reported the same thing: there was a fearsome dementor unlike anything they had seen before.
"The dementor was much larger than usual," one of the Australians on the scene reported, who wished to be unnamed. "The dementor was almost twice the size than normal. It glowed an eerie red, nearly blinding us. But that's not even close to what made it scary. The second we landed we were all blasted backwards by a violent burst of energy. All of us felt sick. Some of us actually did become sick, and not because of the apparation. It was the dementor. It made me feel so depressed in those brief seconds, much worse than a normal dementor. I apparated back, but I was so weak I splinched myself. It was a narrow escape. If we'd stayed a moment longer, we probably would have all been kissed. I think we took it by surprise, which is why it didn't attack the second it could.”
All of the members of the team are currently being held in the Australian Magical Illnesses & Injuries Research Center, one of the best hospitals in the world. Four unnamed members have been reported to be in a coma, but everyone else is in stable condition, most due to be released tomorrow.
“Last night I had a violent nightmare of all my worst memories," Daniel Killingston said, one of the Australians on the scene in Antarctica. "Unless you get kissed or are around dementors frequently, usually all a dementor can do is scare you a little bit. This dementor is having after-effects on me, which normally doesn't happen unless you lead a life with many bad memories.”
This morning, a team made up of investigators from Britain, America, Argentina, Chile, Russia, and Canada, fifty in total, traveled to the spot in Antarctica where the dementor was first detected. Head Auror Harry Potter spoke about what the investigators discovered in a formal statement this afternoon.
“The spot where the dementor was first detected was underwater, underneath the ice. When the team arrived on the ice before their plunge underwater, there was already a gaping hole in the ice. Investigators looked at the residue and determined that it was magically created, and that it was made about ten minutes before the Argentine government first noticed the dementor. Once investigators reached the spot of original detection, they discovered it was in the doorway of an underwater prison. Four bodies were found, but their identities are currently unknown. They were put under the dementor’s kiss."
The International Confederation of Wizards has classified this unusual dementor as ‘deadly’, and has identified it as a severe threat in areas within a 20 mile radius.
"Wow," Albus said, once he put the newspaper down. "Dad's been busy."
"Whazgoinon?" Lily asked through a small mouthful of food. Albus tossed her the newspaper.
"Mysterious," James said, as he tossed the newspaper aside. "I wouldn't be too worried about it though. It's all the way in Antarctica. That's all the way across the world from here.
"What if it comes here though?" Albus asked. "I'm sure it has some sort of purpose."
"It wants what every dementor wants: food, and as soon as possible," his mum replied. "It doesn't need to come to England to get that. It can get souls anywhere."
"But it's a different type of dementor," Albus argued.
"But it still kissed those four people," James pointed out. "It's just stronger than most dementors."
"Who gave Lily the newspaper?" their mum asked, who was looking at Lily's wide and terrified eyes as she read. She quickly snatched the newspaper out of her hands. Lily looked on the verge of tears.
“Mummy…” she whispered.
“It’s just a silly little article, and the dementor is thousands of miles away. Your father and other fantastic people will catch it really soon,” their mum whispered soothingly. She glared at James and Albus, as if to say, ‘Look what you’ve done’, and then turned a comforting gaze towards Lily and carried her to bed.
“Are you a scared-y pants like Lily?” James asked Albus.
“No,” Albus whispered. He was more worried for other people than himself. He had a nasty suspicion that the Auror office was underestimating this dementor. It was unlike anything they had seen before, after all. What was it capable of? What was its limits? How did it come to be? Why was it in prison in the first place? Who put it there? How long ago was the prison made?
Albus lay stretched back on his bed, his school supplies forgotten. After a while of staring at the ceiling, his mind blank, Albus heard intense coughing from downstairs. That type of coughing meant someone had just used the floo network, and the only person who would be using it now would be dad. He was home!
“Dad!” Albus yelled running downstairs to hug his father. The famous Harry Potter looked worn, and it looked like he was about to fall asleep any moment.
“Hey Albus,” his dad said, exhausted but happy. “How was your day?”
“Okay,” Albus said. “Not much happened, but I did read the newspaper.”
“Albus, I’m sorry, but I can’t talk to you about that right now. That’s been the only topic all day, and it’s been driving me insane. Sorry.” He sounded genuinely sincere.
“Okay,” Albus said, slightly disappointed. He wanted his dad to answer some questions. The newspaper seemed too vague.
“Harry!” Al’s mum exclaimed, as she dashed into the sitting room. “How are you?”
“Okay,” he replied, just like Al’s response a minute earlier. “I’m going to head to bed now, after I say goodnight to the kids.”
“It’s only eight thirty,” Albus pointed out.
“It’s been a long day. Goodnight kiddo,” Al’s dad replied, and he gripped Albus tight. After he let go of Albus, he left to go say good night to James and Lily.
Albus stomped back to his room and layed back on his bed again, frusturated. He didn’t blame his dad for not wanting to talk about it, but that didn’t make Al feel any better. He climbed into his pajamas, despite it being only eight thirty, and switched of his light.
Over the course of the next week, Albus scoured the newspaper for more information about the mysterious dementor. Little news trickled its way onto the newspaper, and most of the articles were speculation on the identity of the dementor and its threat to the wizarding world. Many retired aurors were interviewed on their opinions of the matter. Albus’s dad was still at work often because of the ongoing investigation. One night, Albus’s curiosity burst and he begged his dad for information. All Albus got was an apology and an explanation that all information was classified. Rotten government.
When the last agonizing week of summer vacation was over, Albus was finally relieved to be getting back to school, where he could open speculation about the matter among David, Rose, and Art. Even though Rose was a genius all by herself, they seemed to solve mysteries better when all four of them were together.
Albus and his family pulled all their trunks into the back of the borrowed Ministry cars, and Albus wedged himself in the middle seat of the car, with James on his left and Lily on his right. Everyone was tense and silent most of the trip to the station. James sat with his arms crossed staring grumpily out the window. He’d complained earlier in the morning how summer vacation was over. Meanwhile, Lily also had crossed arms, no doubt for the same reason as James, except reverse: going to the platform reminded her that she couldn’t go to Hogwarts yet. Al’s dad didn’t talk either as he drove the car. The corner of his eyelids were a bit crusty. Albus’s mum, desperate to make conversation, broke the silence.
“So, Harry, how’s work coming along?” Albus pretended to look out the window.
“Okay. We think we might have been able to identify what exactly the dementor is, and if it’s true then the world is in for some trouble.”
“How did you identify it?” Albus asked, unable to resist. His dad glanced at Albus through the rearview mirror.
“We brought in a historian who specializes in the history of dark creatures, which includes dementors. Based on the list of qualities the dementor had and the description of its prison, she was able to bring us some books about a certain dementor that resembled the one currently on the loose, and she provided us with additional information, including its creation.”
“How was it created? And what information did she give?” Albus asked. But he had gone too far.
“Sorry, Albus, that’s classified. I shouldn’t even have told you that much. Don’t spread any rumors around Hogwarts, alright Albus, James?”
“Okay,” James mumbled, who still stared grumpily out the window. Albus realized all along, he was only pretending to be uninterested.
Once the arrived at King’s Cross Station, James’s grumpiness returned away, to be replaced by teasing.
“Lily, Albus and I are going off on the magical train, to have lovely adventures, have delicious feast in the Great Hall… did I ever tell you how it has twinkling stars on the ceiling, and glowing candles-”
“Stop it! Stop trying to make me jealous. I’ll be there next year.”
“But you’ll have to suffer an entire year first…”
“STOP IT!” Lily stormed towards the platform barrier leading to platform 9 ¾ and disappeared. Albus stepped forward, and the next moment he was surrounding by billowing steam. Sometimes using modern Muggle trains would be easier, but the Hogwarts Express sure looked a lot cooler.
“Albus!” He turned around, and he saw Rose running towards him. The next moment, Al felt her arms wrapped tightly around him.
“Uh, Rose?” Albus said, feeling a tiny bit awkward. “I just saw you a few days ago.” Rose released him and stood a several inches away.
“Hmm. I guess I did,” Rose said, looking surprised at that fact. “Oh, well. Hugs are good.” Albus personally thought hugs were a tad bit embarrassing, but he decided he wasn’t in the mood to argue.
“Let’s go find a compartment,” Albus said. Rose squinted at Albus.
“Albus, before you go on the train you have to say goodbye to your parents.”
“Oh, yeah,” Albus said. Last year he’d been terrified of leaving them, but once the year started they took up the back part of his mind. It was nice not to have parents to order you around.
Over the next ten minutes, there were a lot of hugs exchanged. Albus had to hug Uncle Ron, Aunt Hermione, Hugo, Lily, his mum, and dad. And they all hugged him at least twice. Albus was surprised that Hugo and Lily looked almost happy. What did they do all year when James, Albus, and Rose were gone?
Finally Albus managed to escape onto the Hogwarts Express, and he had to walk quickly to go along with the flow of students.
“Now let’s find an empty compartment,” Rose said, and she marched them down the train until there was one completely empty. It took a few minutes to find one, and Albus happily sank into the cushioning seat.
“Should we go look for David or Art or something?”
“They’ll probably find us, don’t worry.” And they did. Art arrived a few minutes later, still looking like a shrimp, and then David arrived.
“David!” Albus exclaimed. He hadn’t seen David since the end of last year. “I haven’t seen you in ages! You never replied to my letter inviting you over.”
“I hate writing letters,” David groaned. Albus frowned a little bit, but dropped the subject for now.
“So… how was your summer?”
“Pretty boring,” David said, shrugging. “So I’m glad to be back.”
“Then you should have come over at least once! My parents would have been delighted to meet you.”
“Yeah, well, um…” David stammered. “Oh, wait, there’s Marc!” Albus stared at David in confusion. They weren’t even friends with Marc. Sure, Albus had talked to him at the feast at the beginning of last year, but that was the extent of their friendship. He was that odd kid who somehow wound up in Gryffindor, who read books about useless things like all the greatest potion fails in history.
David left the compartment briefly to catch Marc, who was walking by, and then both of them came back to the compartment.
“You don’t mind if Marc sits with us, do you?” David asked. Well, now that Marc was standing right there, how could he refuse?
“Have a seat Marc,” Art offered, patting one of the cushions. Beaming, Marc sat down. Albus silently studied David’s face. It looked as bright and cheerful as ever, but Albus couldn’t help thinking about Rose’s theory that David might be hiding something. Was he?
“Thanks guys,” Marc said. He then, of course, pulled out a book.
“Marc, where’s Rob?” Rob was the other Gryffindor boy in Albus’s year, and he thought the two were friends. Though he wasn’t sure of that.
“Oh, he’s with the Ravenclaws,” Marc said. As Albus thought, distant memories resurfaced of Rob sitting with the Ravenclaws during classes instead of Marc. Albus felt small amount of pity for Marc, but it was hard to pity a friendless person who didn't make much effort to get a friend in the first place.
For the next hour or so, Albus, David, and Art discussed Hogwarts Quidditch, and who they'd think would win this year. Gryffindor had nobody graduating, which was a plus, but the undefeatable Preece brothers in Hufflepuff were still around too. Only Ravenclaw and Slytherin had team members leaving.
Albus really wanted to have a discussion about the weird dementor in the newspaper, but Marc was sitting in their compartment. Could he trust him? Well, Marc didn't exactly have a long attention span. And what was the harm if Marc caught onto a sentence here or there? He decided to go for it. If they didn't discuss it now, then they wouldn't talk about the dementor until at least tomorrow.
"David, do you get the Daily Prophet?" Albus asked. He might have already read the article about the dementor.
"Yeah, we get it. I don't read it though, if that's what you're implying."
"Well, there was this article about some strange dementor thing..." Albus explained what the article said about the dementor. Art didn't get the Daily Prophet either, so he listened in with David. He then told them what dad had slipped in the car, which nobody, not even Rose, knew yet.
"A historian?" said Rose. "Well, that means this dementor isn't some new creation, and if a historian was able to find what the dementor was, then we should be able to look it up too. The Hogwarts library is one of the best libraries in England."
"Great," David said sarcastically. "Another year spent in the library. I got sick of that place last year when we spent like two months looking up that potion. How long do you think this will take?"
"Hopefully not that long," Art said. "A historian managed to find the dementor in a week, though that is an expert, I suppose..." Albus glanced over at Marc. He was reading a book, completely oblivious to their conversation. That was good.
"The newspapers might dig something up," Rose suggested. "But it would be better if we knew about it before the journalists."
"We could look that up tomorrow," Albus suggested. "We have a day before classes starts, since today's Saturday." Once that was confirmed, they moved onto more pleasant topics, like who the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher was.
"We have to get all Lockhart books, who everyone knows is a fraud, and James didn't have to get anything from Lockhart! Is this new teacher insane, or what?" Albus said.
"Oh, apparently Fred and Louis had to get those awful Ministry textbooks that were used when Umbridge were teaching," Rose said. "I really don't like this teacher's taste in books."
"You shouldn't really judge a teacher based on books," Art pointed out.
"We can wait and see, but I have a feeling I won't like whoever it is," Albus replied.
When they finally arrived at Hogsmeade station, Albus realized this would be the first time they'd be taking the carriages to school, not the boats. They were amateurs now. When Albus walked up to the carriages, he got a bit of a shock. There were some sort of black horse, with rough leathery skin and wings hooked up to the carriage. Were they thestrals? But they were invisible... right?
"Rose, why are the thestrals visible?"
"What do you mean?" Rose said, glancing over at Albus as she hoisted herself up onto the carriage.
"That big leathery winged horse thing that's pulling the carriage."
"Oh, the thestrals! They're invisible unless-" Rose stopped for a moment, and looked at Albus like she was trying to figure something out.
"What?" he said.
“Albus did you see Slytherin die, when you were fighting in his office last year?" He thought, and remembered Slytherin's limbs snapping together, and his lifeless eyes.
"Yes," Albus whispered, his gaze following older students were climbing into carriages, laughing and endless chattering filling the air, all completely oblivious to the creatures that were inches away.
"Thestrals are invisible to everyone except those who have seen someone die," Rose said. "And, well... you have."
Albus shifted his feet uneasily as he stared at the thestrals. He hated them. The only reason Albus could see them was because he had seen someone kick the bucket. Stupid. He looked at it a bit longer, and his mind lingered on Slytherin’s motionless eyes… dead eyes…
"Albus, jump in the carriage," Rose said. "We're going to be late." Albus heaved himself onto the carriage, which already contained Rose, Art, David, and Marc.
"I personally think it's cool that you can see thestrals," Art said. He must have sensed Albus's anger. "I'm curious what they look like."
"Looks like dark creatures are friends of Albus," David joked. "Just hope that dementor down in Antarctica doesn't try to come to Hogwarts. The thestrals might have competition."
Thestrals, dementors... this year was going to be a whopper.
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