Chapter 12 : The Headline
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In an effort to postpone writing to his family, Mr. Ollivander has asked me to read today’s edition of The Daily Prophet to him. And it’s no easy feat.
ATTACK NEAR DIAGON ALLEY LEAVES 18 MUGGLES, 1 WITCH DEAD, AT LEAST 31 INJURED
Yesterday morning, the NeoGrindelwalds paid Muggle London a visit by destroying the entrance to an Underground Tube Station (Muggle trains that go under the streets of Muggle London) as well as a nearby residence. This all happened on the front steps to The Leaky Cauldron, which is the entrance to the wizarding world’s Diagon Alley.
There were three explosions in total and duels between NeoWalds and Aurors, which resulted in the death of witch Gertrude Jones (52) and 18 Muggles. At least 31 wizards and Muggles sustained injuries in the attack.
Ministry Officials worked with Muggle authorities to begin the cleanup process. The Muggles believe the explosions were caused by gas leaks, and all memories of non-magical witnesses have been modified.
The Ministry has confirmed known NeoWalds at the attack were Boguslaw Balog, Rita Fortescue, Dietrich Koch, and Fania Novak. Others have yet to be identified. Alleged leader of the NeoGrindelwald Movement, Cassius Vaisey, was not reported to have been in attendance. Another sighting occurred during the attack: James Potter, son of Head Auror Harry Potter, appeared at the scene, wearing the same dark green robes as the NeoWalds. James Potter was last seen at the Skirmish of Farstead Chapel last February. “We’re still investigating Potter’s disappearance and any links he may have had to yesterday’s attack,” said Ministry spokeswizard Malachy Lynch in an official statement to the press. “He has not been confirmed as an official member of the NeoGrindelwalds. Now can we get back to the actual reports about the attack?”
Is Harry Potter’s son an official member of Europe’s most notorious band of rogue wizards?
Critics point fingers at the close personal ties between the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, the Minister for Magic Hermione Granger-Weasley, and the-reported-missing-now-suspect James Potter. “How will we know that appropriate justice will be served when the time comes to prosecute [Harry] Potter’s boy?” gripes Cyrus White, senior guest reporter for Witch Weekly. More detailed speculation and a recap on the Skirmish of Farstead Chapel is available on page 3 of this edition of The Prophet. The Minister for Magic will make a statement about yesterday’s attack later on today at two o’clock.
“Terrible, how absolutely terrible,” coughs Mr. Ollivander before taking a sip of tea.
I lay the newspaper in my lap. My hands are trembling, so I tightly cross my arms. “Yeah. It was pretty bad yesterday,” I agree half-heartedly. Yesterday’s fall over the dead man replays in my mind. So does James casting a spell towards us. “Do you need more tea?”
“Yes, thank you, Miss Fortescue,” Mr. Ollivander says. He offers me his cup.
I slowly go over to the kettle, which still holds warm water. Mr. Ollivander’s bed is still in his common area, so I can feel his silver eyes watching my every movement. They unabashedly continue to observe me as I return to his bedside.
“I know I must write to my family today,” he says, “But I’m not sure if any of them are willing to devote their lives to the art of wandmaking.”
I’ve heard this before, but I nod to show him that I’m listening.
Mr. Ollivander pauses for a moment longer. “I could teach you instead.”
Icy chills crawl up my spine as I stiffen in my chair. “Me?” My mouth goes dry.
“I think you would have a keen aptitude for it,” he says. “After all, you expressed interest in wandlore a couple years ago when you were at Hogwarts.”
That is true, though my stomach flips uncomfortably as I try to shake off the associated memories surrounding that incident. It was a time when finding out about the Hallows was my obsession… I can’t go back to that. Can I? Beads of sweat form at the base of my beck. I’m not so sure anymore, not after yesterday…
The bell sounds from the store, indicating that there is a customer. Relieved that I’m spared from giving Mr. Ollivander an answer straight away, I excuse myself from his bedside, sweeping my hair into a messy bun, and go to fulfill my duty as shopkeeper.
“Hello. Welcome to Olli--” My words die in my throat as I take in the witch who has entered the shop. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Good afternoon, Amelia. It’s an absolute pleasure to see you again.” This, I know, is a lie. Or a cruel jab towards me.
“What do you want?” I ask, crossing my arms. “You don’t strike me as the type to need a new wand. Maybe a good wand polish to clean all the dirt.”
The witch smiles humorlessly. “Charming as ever, I see. It seems like Hogwarts did nothing to improve your manners.”
“It’s not a bloody finishing school.”
“And what kind of school would you say it is?” Rita Skeeter’s eyes glitter behind her bright pink spectacles. Her bleached blonde curls sit atop her head, creating a gaudy mane around her overly made up face. Her acid green quill is already scribbling away notes, but she’s standing too far away for me to see what she’s writing.
“What do you want?” I repeat again. This time my tone is sharper and more impatient.
Rita laughs, stepping closer to the counter. “Oh come on,” she says, “I know that you know why I’m here. The headline practically writes itself!”
It takes everything within me to not roll my eyes. “Then I don’t really see a need for you,” I tell her coolly. “So if you’re not going to buy anything--”
“Funny, isn’t it?” Rita cuts me off. She begins to pace around the store, her beady eyes drinking her surroundings. “How I find you here, of all places. Are you underselling yourself or feeding an obscure obsession?”
“Why do you even ask me? You’ll just twist my words and write whatever the hell you want anyway,” I say.
“Obsession it is,” she mutters as her quill makes rapid notes on her parchment. I grasp onto the counter, sending all of my rage into my grip. My knuckles turn white. “Let’s get to it, shall we? Did you have any idea?”
I clench my toes and think about all of the hexes I could throw at her.
Rita clicks her tongue and peers at me. “Let me simplify things for you, dear. Did you know that James Potter was a Dark wizard while you were dating him?”
“How dare you even ask that!” My outburst surprises even me. I tug impatiently at my jumper, trying to keep back frustrated tears. “No one knows if James was even in his right mind yesterday--”
“Then, as his ex-girlfriend, can you confirm that James has a history of being out of his right mind while he was at Hogwarts?”
“What? No!” I shout. “James is not a Dark wizard! Now leave me alone!”
“Amelia seems to be under extreme distress...one must wonder at the extent of the toll of heartbreak her rather public and nasty breakup with James Potter has taken on her mental--” Rita mutters to her quill.
“Shut up!” I yell, facing away from her in anger. I can feel her eyes bore into the back of my head. Taking deep breaths, I try to regain control of my shaking hands, so I can get myself out of this situation.
“Dearie me,” Rita sighs happily. “Seems like I’ve struck a chord this time around. What role do you think James is playing in this NeoGrindelwald movement?”
“Don’t you have more important people’s lives to ruin?” I counter, turning around again.
Rita smiles with a sickening sweetness. “Oh, believe me, the important people will be exposed at the right time… but the readers are obsessed with the Potters--and now especially with Harry Potter’s oldest son on the side of the NeoWalds… what does his past love, his old flame, his Hogwarts girlfriend, whose own mother happens to be a well known member of this movement, say about it? Now that’s the headline.”
Scrunching my nose, I cross my arms again, hoping that my anger will not get the better of me.“Go find someone else to be the damn headline,” I tell her. “I’m not interested in answering questions from a gaudy, old hag.” It seems to be too late about controlling my anger.
“You know, all that frowning will cause early aging, and it looks like you need all the help you can get in that department,” she snaps back at me. Her quill continues to take copious notes. Of what, I can only imagine. Nothing overwhelmingly positive about me, that’s for sure. I wonder how much of it will end of it will end up in her new articles.
“Well, it’s a good thing you’re here, then,” I say sweetly. “To be a shining beacon of what not to do.”
We glare at each other, insults burning at the tips of our tongues.
“I’m not sorry to break it to you, but I’m here to stay,” Rita says finally. “Look at my career! What a time to be alive! The scandals of Albus Dumbledore and the saga of Harry Potter, only to be passed down to the next generation! I may be getting on in my years, but my career will end with your wedding, your funeral, or your prosecution--and if I’m really lucky, it’ll more than one of those.”
I raise my eyebrows. “Those seem to be rather limited outcomes.”
“What else do you expect to happen? That we all put down our wands, hold hands, and make peace with each other?” Rita laughs, adjusting her glasses.
“I expect people to mind their own business--but you seem to be the exception.”
“It seems like that’s one thing we agree on. What makes you the exception? To James Potter? To Harry Potter and the Aurors? Even to the NeoWalds, like your mother?” For what seems like the first time since her arrival, Rita’s quill pauses, waiting for my answer.
“You’ll have to ask them.”
“And one day I will,” Rita agrees smugly. She readjusts her cloak and clears her throat. “Well, I’ve gotten what I need for now. I’d say it’s been a pleasure…”
“You already have.”
Rita grimaces, clenching her jaw. Without another word, she turns and leaves the store, her green quill scribbling furiously in her wake.
“Here. Let me help you with that,” a voice said behind me. Setting down my trunk back onto Platform 9 3/4, I turned around and broke out into the first smile all morning.
“James!” I threw my arms around him. He had gotten a little taller over the summer and his cheeks a little sharper. He still smelled of cinnamon and musk. Then, through the cascading sunlight, I saw him.
“Amelia? What are you doing?” James was standing a couple meters away, looking at me suspiciously. The James I was hugging noticed my confusion and looked behind him at the other James. An instant flush crawled up his neck and his ears.
“Oi! Not funny!” the James closer to me snapped as I started laughing. The James farther away grinned and in a matter of seconds had turquoise hair and was a few inches taller.
“Wow, a Metamorphmagus!” I exclaimed as this turquiose-haired stranger came up to us. His smile widened. “And a pretty good impersonator of James, too!”
“Wotcher, Amelia. I’m Teddy Lupin,” he said, extending his hand. “It’s so nice to finally meet the person who has influenced James Potter to read--”
“Shut up, Teddy!” James groaned, which only made me laugh harder. Teddy winked at me.
“It’s a pleasure meeting you, Teddy,” I told him, matching his enthusiasm. “It’s so nice to finally meet the person who can push James’ buttons so easily.”
Teddy laughed, throwing his arm around James, who was trying to keep his blush at bay. “It’s nothing, really. I’ve been at it since 2003, so I’ve had loads of time to practice.”
“Okay, if you are finished now,” James said impatiently, rolling his eyes, “let’s get Amelia’s trunk onto the train.”
Teddy and James lifted my trunk and put it into a compartment as Helen and Eddie ran up to me on the platform. “It’s nearly time to leave!” Eddie exclaimed, beaming at his sister. “Can you believe it? Helen, I really hope you’re in Ravenclaw with me.”
Helen’s eyes filled with tears. “What if I’m not Sorted into any House?” she wondered. I put my arm around her and tucked a blonde strand of hair behind her ear as James and Teddy came back onto the platform.
“You’ll be Sorted, most definitely. As a prefect, I know it,” I told her. “Are your things on the train? Good. Let’s go say goodbye to your parents.” As Helen leaned into me, I caught James’ eye. “Thank you,” I mouthed to him. “See you later.” I waved at Teddy before leading my cousins to their parents, who were catching up with the Boots.
My ear caught my name as Teddy spoke about me to James. “--Amelia. Never let her go!”
We wove our way to Uncle Michael and Aunt Susan, who smiled at seeing the three of us together. She got out her camera and snapped a photo of the three of us standing in front of the Hogwarts Express with the sun in our faces.
“Look at all of you, finally going to Hogwarts together!” beamed Uncle Michael, hugging Eddie. He stood still for a moment and squirmed out of his father’s embrace. Helen quickly filled the void.
“Have a good term, Amelia,” Aunt Susan said kindly, hugging me. Her eyes flickered over to the Potters, who were standing with Teddy and some of the many Weasleys. I thought I saw James’ mother glance our way. “And enjoy dating James Potter.”
My mouth dropped. “Aunt Susan--!”
“Oh please!” she laughed. “Do you think I was born yesterday? The letter writing, the sour moods, Eddie’s hints, what I saw just now with your trunk. Enjoy, but be responsible. Don’t go breaking any rules or crossing any boundaries without consent--”
“Okay, okay!” I interrupted, feeling my face grow hot. “I get it. Communicate my intentions. No means no. Be in my dorm by curfew.”
Aunt Susan smiled. “That’s my girl!” She then turned to Helen, who was still embracing Uncle Michael. Eddie was containing his laughter at my exchange with his mother.
“Oh, stuff it,” I hissed. “Just wait until you get a girlfriend, and then you’ll hear it!” That sobered him up pretty quickly.
When they finally shepherded us onto the train, Helen and Eddie continued to wave goodbye from the window. The train jolted, and we were off for another year at Hogwarts. We rolled past sunny London into the bright countryside.
I persuaded, rather forcibly, Eddie to let Helen sit with him, since I had a prefect’s meeting in the front carriage. He grudgingly accepted as his friends started to appear in the compartment. In the corridor of the train, students were all scrambling to find their comrades and the perfect compartment in which to sit. I wondered where Victoria was. Probably sitting with some of the other girls in our year. I hoped that I would be able to say hello for a little while during the train journey.
“There you are,” James said as he pulled me aside. He put his hands on my hips, sending butterflies from my stomach to my throat.
“Are you James, or did Teddy sneak on here as well?” I asked him, folding my hands around his neck. His touch was hot, searing through the fabric of my clothes and igniting my skin. I squinted up at him through the shining sunlight and relished in seeing his freckles move with his expressions.
He smiled. “James, of course. Teddy could never fully pull off someone as fit and as charming and as handsome and as--”
“Arrogant,” I added, rolling my eyes.
“--as me!” James finished. He was mid-laugh when I kissed him. We found our old rhythm quickly. My fingers wove themselves into his soft hair. James’ hands traveled from my lower back, to my cheeks, to my hair, to the back of my neck. It was like no time had passed between us at all. There was a trembling urgency behind our touch; it surged through my blood and pulsated in my ears. As James pulled me closer to deepen our kiss, I reluctantly broke away from him.
“I must really be getting to the prefect’s carriage,” I said dizzily, leaning my forehead against his. “If I’m late, I’ll be stuck with the worst duties.”
James sighed, holding onto my hand as I started to walk away. “See you later, Amelia,” he said, leaning against the window as my fingers slipped through his.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that was our last shining moment together before everything changed. Over the course of the next couple of years, I often longed to go back to this moment, to go back into James’ arms and savour our first kisses after being separated during the summer. Sure, there were other fond memories of us together in the course of our relationship, but they were set amongst bleak circumstances, which slowly ensnared us in their clutches.
It started when we arrived at the Hogsmeade train station. Darkness had already fallen. Helen found me on my way from finishing prefect’s duties and insisted that I escort her off the train. I ran into her when I was looking for either James or my friends.
“Come on, Helen,” I told her bracingly. “Just follow the other first years. You’ll run into a big man named Hagrid, who’ll call all the first years to him. You can’t miss him.”
Helen shook her head and wrapped her arm around mine. “Please take me, Amelia,” she squeaked.
Sighing, I joined the cluster of students going getting off the train. By the time we got into the platform, I expected to hear Hagrid’s booming voice. But all I could hear was a buzzing confusion. Hagrid was not there, nor was there any other teacher to welcome us.
“What’s going on?” Helen wondered, trying to see over the crowd. I squinted across the platform to try to figure it out.
“Everyone, back on the train!” a voice shouted. “Come on, now. Everyone on the train!”
The crowd’s uncertainty grew louder. “Yeh heard it! Get back on th’ train!” bellowed Hagrid. He emerged from the shadows of the station, waving the crowd of students towards the train.
“Amelia!” called James, weaving through the retreating students. His eyes shone with wild intensity. “Amelia, you gotta come see this!” He grabbed my hand and started leading me away from the train.
“Amelia, come back!” shouted Helen, but I beckoned her towards the train before James pulled me out of her line of sight.
“James, what’s going on?” I asked him over the hustle of the students going in the opposition direction of us.
“Hold on!” James said, ducking past a group of fifth years as Professor Ritter appeared to oversee the students.
We finally made our way to the side of the platform, where we saw several witches and wizards hunched over in the semi-darkness. A couple of them had their wands lit over dark masses on the ground. In their wandlight, something glittered on the wall of the station.
“What…?” I breathed, taking a step forward, peering through the darkness.
“Can you read the Runes below it?” James asked as he pointed to the symbol painted above the rest.
My heart seized as I took in the writing on the wall. There were Runes, most of which I recognized but didn’t recall their meanings, and above them shone the symbol of Grindelwald, the symbol of the Deathly Hallows. The overall effect was sinister, yet I felt the need to get closer to the Runes. If I could only translate them…
“Merlin’s beard,” I whispered, taking another step towards the scene and drinking in the Runes, which seemed to be calling me to them. My survival instincts flared to life, telling me to flee from the scene as I took another step. Why were there Runes on the wall? Why were there people hovering underneath them? What were they investigating? Why did the Runes reflect the light so menacingly? Why did the sign of the Hallows sit atop the Runes as if it were a crown?
“Amelia, where are you going?” James asked, grabbing onto my arm. I got the sense that he could feel the ominous pull from the Runes, too.
“Oi! James! What the hell are yeh doin’?” shouted Hagrid angrily as he spotted us. “And why didya bring Miss Fortescue over here? Get back on th’ train, th’ both of yeh!”
James took my hand, pulling me away from where we stood. At once, I felt relieved to be away from there.
“Sorry, Hagrid, just seeing what the fuss is all about!” James called as we jogged past the groundskeeper, whose next words we could barely hear over the noise of the confusion: “Yer just like yer father.” We were the last pair of students back onto the train. The corridors were filled with students. No one wanted to be in the compartments in case something exciting happened outside.
James and I squeezed into a space and faced each other, our eyes searching the other’s for answers to the questions which we both were silently asking.
“Amelia! Emergency prefect’s meeting with Professors Ritter and Flitwick in the front carriage!” called someone over the mass of buzzing students.
“Duty calls,” I said shakily, grasping onto James’ hands for moral support.
“Amelia, what does this mean?” His brown eyes looked so lost, so worried. Pleading. Fearful, even.
I shook my head. “I don’t know, James. I really don’t know.”
A/N: Anything you recognize belongs to JKR!
And the plot thickens! What will Rita Skeeter include in her article? And what is with those Runes at the Hogsmeade Station? Please leave a review with your thoughts, predictions, etc.! :)
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