Chapter 24 : Darker Times
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Lunch was very subdued the next day. Most people had slept quite late since it was a Saturday. Every student of Hogwarts had their nose in a copy of the Prophet, be it their own or a friend's. The staff table looked the same, with every professor either reading the Prophet or whispering with another professor, no doubt about what they'd read.
Albus was reading Georgia's Prophet as she had finished with it and made a mental note to start subscribing himself. All of his friends were peering over his shoulders. Even Linda was hovering around them, a foot or so away.
HOGSMEADE SHOPKEEPER MURDERED
A disturbance in Dervish and Banges late
yesterday evening that sent one Hogsmeade
resident to Hogwarts to find the Auror on
duty lead to the discovery of the death
of a shopkeeper.
Leroy Wisander, 42, the ten-year owner of
Dervish and Banges was pronounced dead
on the scene by Ministry Aurors yesterday
evening. His shop had been broken into
and it showed signs of a struggle.
Wisander was discovered in the middle of
destroyed merchandise with his wand
laying a few feet away. Aurors confirmed
that he was killed with the killing curse.
An extensive search of Hogsmeade, the
forest, Hogwarts, and its grounds turned
up nothing despite the hours Aurors spent
searching. No fingerprints were found on
Aurors will be devoting time to finding
Wisander's killer and a possible motive.
Leroy Wisander had owned Dervish and Banges
for a little over ten years, when he
purchased the shop from its previous owners
who retired. However, Wisander is more
known for the scathing editorials he writes
for this very newspaper.
Anyone who knew Wisander knew he was a man
of very strong opinion and did not hesitate
to let others know his opinions. His most
recent editorials have explored the subject
of werewolf, vampire, and other so called
'half-breeds' rights. Aurors have declined
comment on whether they believe Wisander's
editorials are a possible motive for his
murder. Wisander's obituary can be found
on page five.
Albus set the paper down and his friends all resumed their seats. Nobody said a word for a few minutes. Albus didn't know what to think. The article certainly made it seem like Wisander was killed because of his beliefs. However, it didn't exactly say what his beliefs were. Albus hadn't ever read any of his editorials, so he couldn't say either.
“What kind of editorials did he write?” Matt asked quietly.
“I have no idea,” Albus replied, looking at his friend whose face was quite pale, “Want to go to the room?”
“Yeah,” Matt nodded, “I'm not really hungry.”
Albus got up and was followed by all of his friends. John and Kaden each grabbed a stack of toast before leaving. Even Rose and Amanda went with them instead of going off to study with Linda.
“Have any of you read his editorials?” Matt asked as soon as they were in the Marauder's Den.
Nobody had read them. Not even Rose. Matt sighed and collapsed onto one of the couches. “I've got to find out what they were about. I don't even know which would be better, him being for or against werewolf rights. If he's for them, that means some bloke is on the loose killing people for wanting werewolf rights.”
Matt didn't even have to continue for Albus to know why that worried him. Matt's dad was possibly the biggest proponent of werewolf rights in all of Britain and everyone knew it. If someone had been killed just for writing about werewolf rights, what would happen to someone who was actually passing laws for them?
“That might not be why Wisander was killed,” Rose pointed out.
“Why else would someone have killed him?” Matt asked, “He was just a shop owner in Hogsmeade.”
“Why did someone kill Professor Torro?” John replied, “He wasn't even writing any editorials or anything.”
“To scare people,” Albus said quietly, “The Defense teacher position used to be cursed, back when our parents were in school.”
“Well, I don't think you should worry until you find out what the editorials are about,” Rose said to Matt.
“The other option isn't much better,” Matt muttered, “If he didn't write editorials for werewolf rights, then he wrote them against them.”
Albus thought Matt had a point, but he kept his mouth shut. Any way you looked at it, this murder pointed to the fact that things were changing. Aurors had been patrolling Hogwarts for months, but Albus had quickly adjusted to that and didn't really think much about it, but maybe there was more happening outside of Hogwarts than Albus was aware of.
“Let's go to the library,” Rose said as she stood up, “They'll have old copies of the Prophet there.”
Everyone agreed with this and they set off to the library. When they arrived, they were surprised to find how crowded it was. Usually Saturdays were the days everyone put off their homework and then Sundays were spent in the library.
Once they stepped inside, Albus saw that everyone was looking through old copies of the Prophet. Nearly every table had a few newspapers on it and a few students poring over them. Madam Pince was bustling about, no doubt worrying about whether the students would rip her precious newspapers.
“Might not be any left,” John muttered.
“This is good,” Albus replied, “Now it won't look suspicious for us to be investigating.”
John was almost right. There was a very small stack of newspapers left. Albus grabbed them all and then they went to a secluded table towards the back of the library. Albus, Matt, and Rose each took a newspaper while John, Kaden, and Amanda played tic-tac-toe on a spare bit of parchment.
Albus leafed through his newspaper, which was about two years old, until he got to the editorial section. In the very middle, in the biggest font, was an editorial by Leroy Wisander.
HEALERS, BREWERS TO BLAME, NOT MINISTRY OFFICIALS
As I was locking up my shop last night,
I noticed that it was a full moon. I
could not help but think of the poor
people plagued with lycanthropy
currently shut up while attacking
Now, I know what you all are thinking.
Wolfsbane. The stuff works miracles
if taken correctly. However, it does
no good if it's sitting in St. Mungo's
and not being used by witches and
wizards with lycanthropy.
The stuff is expensive. I myself did
the calculations and discovered that
it would be extremely difficult for
anyone with a low income to afford it.
And what kind of jobs are lycanthropes
often stuck with? Menial, low-paying
ones. The jobs where they make hardly
enough money to pay the rent and buy
food, let alone purchase a potion that
could alter their lives for the better.
I am absolutely appalled that Healers
and potion brewers charge for this
important potion. They must be making
a nice profit. They can use the profits
to take extravagant holidays while the
poor witches and wizards who buy it
struggle to afford it.
There is only so much Ministry officials
can do. Head of Werewolf Support Services,
Walter Eckerton, says he would love to
give away free Wolfsbane, but there just
isn't room for it in the budget.
What do I propose? I propose that Healers
and potion brewers give it away for free.
They have the abilities to brew it, not
the Ministry. Most Healers claim to love
helping people, but often it is those who
need it most, such as those with lycanthropy,
are often forced to go without, all because
those with the abilities to brew it like
to have a little extra spending money.
“Nothing in this one,” Rose said as she shoved hers aside.
“This one's got one about vampires,” Matt said as he set his paper on top of Rose's.
“Read this,” Albus handed Matt his paper, “Wisander even mentions your dad.”
Matt took the paper and he and Rose began to read it. John, Amanda, and Kaden peered over as well. Albus sat and waited while they read.
“Let's go back to the room,” Matt said as soon as he'd finished reading it.
Albus nodded and they returned the newspapers and walked as fast as they could back to the Marauder's Den.
“Bloody Hell, that bloke must have had so many enemies!” John shouted as soon as they were back.
“I know,” Albus agreed, “And that one's from two years ago. Imagine what he's written recently.”
“Why did he have to mention my dad?” Matt groaned, “He made it sound like my dad agrees with that editorial and he definitely doesn't.”
“He was just trying to stir something up,” Rose replied, “And look where it got him.”
“Healers aren't like that. Most of the ones I've met would give away free Wolfsbane, but it's more complicated that that. The ingredients are expensive and it takes forever to brew. Not to mention how difficult it is. There aren't many Healers who can brew it and even most brewers can't brew it,” Matt explained.
“That bloke didn't know the half of it,” John agreed, “My dad's a Healer and he'd love to give away free potions. It just doesn't work that way.”
“My dad's linked with that bloke,” Matt said quietly, “And now that he's head of the entire department, he'll be passing more laws. Whoever killed Wisander's not going to be happy.”
“Your dad's a really good wizard, though,” Albus pointed out to his worried friend, “Plus he works at the Ministry, where there are loads of Aurors milling about. And your house is more protected than any other house I've seen, well, except the Minister's Mansion.”
“I know, but it's still not good,” Matt sighed.
Albus couldn't argue with that. Something was going on outside of Hogwarts. Something far more important than the Quidditch tournament and the dueling tournament.
Albus and his friends scoured the Daily Prophet every morning the following week. Every day there was an article about Wisander, the investigation, or both. So far the investigation had turned up nothing. The Aurors had questioned quite a few people, namely those very outspoken against werewolf and vampire rights, but the search had proved fruitless.
The articles about Wisander were far more interesting. It seemed that his editorial about Wolfsbane Potion was one of the tamer ones. Each day little pieces of his various editorials were being published. In one, he stated the reasons why werewolves shouldn't be locked up on full moons. The reasons were quite absurd, but the Prophet had printed it anyway. Another editorial talked about why vampires should be allowed access to humans to bite. He suggested using prisoners and allowing vampires to suck them dry. Thus helping vampires and reducing prison costs at the same time.
“I reckon this bloke was off his rocker,” John announced at breakfast the following Sunday. He had just finished reading an article about how Wisander spent a year living with a vampire tribe in Turkey when he was young. They were some of the few people actually up at an early hour, as Albus had Quidditch practice and John had a morning detention with Filch for putting dungbombs in the toilets in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom the previous day.
“That's a nice way of putting it,” Albus said as he served himself more eggs.
“What are you doing after Quidditch practice?” John asked.
“After Quidditch?” Albus laughed, “You mean, I'm going to get to leave eventually? Wood won't make us practice for the next week? I thought he was going to keep going until the actual match on Saturday.”
“He's got to let you out for class,” John grinned.
“What a shame,” Albus rolled his eyes, “Anyway, I'll probably have to do homework, since practice will go until late. How about you? Any plans for after detention?”
“Thought I might earn another detention,” John grinned, “But Kaden's busy with chess club this afternoon-”
“Wait,” Albus nearly choked on his juice, “Kaden joined the chess club? Kaden? Kaden Dursley?”
“Know any other Kadens?” John laughed, “Rose said they want to teach him how to play properly, you know, like a challenge of sorts.”
“I'll tell Rose good luck with that,” Albus said.
“Yeah, so both Kaden and Rose will be busy with that. Not that Rose would want to earn detention with me anyway. And Amanda's doing something with Linda today, homework, I think. And I doubt Matt will be up for doing anything,” John continued.
“Right,” Albus said, remembering that the full moon was that night, “But you did the dungbombs on your own.”
“But it's not as fun,” John sighed, “I guess I'll just hang around the den with Matt. I can have a nice one-sided conversation.”
“You can do your homework,” Albus told him.
“Nope, I'm waiting until you get back for that,” John said.
“Well, have fun in your detention. I've got to get to practice,” Albus said as he got up.
There were a few choice words Albus had for practice that day. Long, grueling, and intense. Wood was in his finest form as he ordered the team to do drills hour after hour. He seemed to get more and more stressed as the day wore on.
James did a lot of one-on-one training with Teddy and Albus was more than a little envious. Teddy was a much more patient captain than Wood was and yelled a whole lot less. Tyler Pike mostly helped Wood.
Wood let them have a short break for lunch, making sure they knew to come back afterwards. Albus heard the Slytherins on the team talking about skipping out of the rest of practice, but they were back on the pitch at the time Wood told them to be.
The afternoon was very similar to the morning and Albus found that he could tune out Wood's yelling quite easily. It was similar to tuning out his mum's yelling.
Practice finally ended at three, when the New York team walked onto the pitch and demanded they leave, because they had booked the pitch for three o'clock that day.
“Remember, practice Tuesday evening!” Wood shouted as the whole team rushed to get off the pitch.
Albus trudged back to the castle tired and shivering. He went straight to Gryffindor Tower and took a very long, hot shower and then set off to find his friends.
Rose, Amanda, and Linda were in the common room, but the boys weren't. Albus figured they were in the Marauder's Den and set off to look for them after saying a quick hello to the girls.
John and Kaden were in the middle of a heated game of Exploding Snap when Albus walked into the Marauder's Den a few minutes later. John's face was full of ash, but Kaden's was quite clean. There was also a big grin on his face which contrasted the scowl on John's face. Matt was laying on the couch facing them, like he had been watching the game, but he was sound asleep.
“Albus!” Kaden shouted, “How was practice?”
“Grueling. Wood's ten times worse than Georgia. Five hours we were out there. Five bloody hours in the cold!” Albus groaned as he collapsed onto the other couch.
“Better than scrubbing Moaning Myrtle's bathroom with a toothbrush,” John muttered, “I don't know what was worse, the scrubbing or listening to Myrtle.”
“All three of you are so cheery today,” Kaden said, “So many complaints.”
“Can you blame us?” Albus muttered.
“No, not really,” Kaden shrugged.
“How was chess?” Albus asked.
“I got beaten by every single person in the chess club,” Kaden shook his head, “But they think I have potential.”
“Albus,” John said as the cards blew up in his face again, “Have you done that Defense essay?
“No,” Albus groaned.
“I need your help,” John said as he got up and started digging around in his bag.
Albus groaned again and fished around in his own bag for his Defense book. Balladanis wanted a foot long essay about basilisks, which were the current dark creature of the week.
John sat down at the table while Albus lay on the couch. He just couldn't bring himself to get up and do his essay. Instead, he mumbled answers to John whenever he asked a question.
“Do you hatch the chicken egg under a frog or a toad?” John asked.
“Toad,” Albus mumbled.
“You know, I could pull a Rose and tell you to do your essay,” John replied.
“Don't even bother,” Albus said. Even Rose wouldn't be able to get him off the couch.
“Quidditch seems less grueling than football,” Kaden commented, “I mean, you fly, you don't run.”
Albus lifted his head up and glared at Kaden. “Wood had us doing push-ups and running laps.”
“Really?” Kaden sounded surprised, “Why?”
“To get us into shape after the holiday,” Albus answered, “So yes, Quidditch is a lot of work.”
“Ok, ok,” Kaden muttered as he located some of his own homework.
Albus managed to get in a somewhat comfortable position on the couch and wrote his essay with his book and parchment perched on his knees. It beat sitting at the table; at least he was able to sort of lie down.
A few hours later both Albus and John had their essays completed. Kaden was still scribbling furiously on whatever homework he was working on.
“We should probably wake him up,” Albus gestured to Matt, who had not moved one muscle since Albus had came back from practice.
John got up and began to prod Matt's arm. It took a good two minutes for Matt to open his eyes.
“It's nearly six,” John told him.
“Then I should probably go,” Matt mumbled, “Oh, Albus, you're back from practice.”
“Yeah,” Albus nodded, “It was really long, though.”
“I'll go with you to the hospital wing,” John said and Matt did not object. Albus assured him they'd visit him the next day and then they left, leaving Albus and Kaden alone in the room.
John returned a little while later and the three of them went down to dinner. They returned to the Marauder's Den afterwards and John and Kaden continued working on their homework while Albus slept on the couch.
“Albus, get up!”
Albus mumbled something incoherently and rolled over in his bed. It felt far too early to wake up.
“Albus!” Whoever was shouting was now prodding him in the side.
Albus opened his eyes and saw Teddy standing over his bed. A glance at the clock told him that, yes, it was far too early to wake up. It was six in the morning. On a Saturday. Yes, it was the day of the Quidditch match against New York, but that wasn't until one o'clock and Albus was only a reserve player anyway.
“Albus, you'd better get up now. Wood's in the common room,” Teddy whispered.
That got Albus's attention. His eyes shot back open and he sat up. “What?”
“Fielding's sick,” Teddy told him, “You're playing today.”
Now Albus was wide awake. “Seriously? What about O'delle?” Hailey O'delle was the other reserve Chaser, a seventh year Slytherin.
“She's sick, too,” Teddy explained, “The two of them are going out, so it doesn't surprise me.”
Albus took that to mean that Teddy thought they were snogging and one got the other sick.
“I'll be down in two minutes,” Albus muttered.
Teddy nodded and left. Albus threw on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans before running down to the common room, where he found Oliver Wood pacing in front of the empty fire.
“Albus,” he said as soon as Albus stepped into the common room, “You're playing Chaser today.”
Albus nodded and sat down for what was sure to be a very long speech. Wood paused and then launched into an explanation of tactics, which Albus had already heard during practices that week. He couldn't figure out why he had to be woken up at six to be told he was playing. Wood could have accomplished the same thing at ten.
Wood and Teddy left after Wood finished lecturing Albus and Albus considered going back to bed, but as he was wide awake, it would be pointless.
Part of Wood's speech had been on the weather, which was cold and slightly snowy. Could be worse, Albus thought. At least there wasn't a blizzard. The conditions were very similar to those they had been practicing in all week.
Albus sat in the common room reading a book he found laying around until his friends got up around ten.
“There you are,” Matt, who was looking significantly better than he had a few days ago, said, “What time did you get up?”
“Six,” Albus muttered, “Teddy got me up. Wood had to tell me I'm playing Chaser today.”
“What?” Matt shouted, “That's brilliant!”
“This is great, Albus!” John grinned, “But why?”
“Fielding's sick and so is the other reserve Chaser,” Albus explained, “I'm just glad we're playing New York and not Australia.”
Albus went to the Great Hall to eat lunch with his friends, but he wasn't really hungry. He didn't think he had ever been more nervous for a Quidditch match. This was a really important match, as Wood had pointed out numerous times. If they won by a wide enough margin, they'd be in second place.
Word had gotten around that Albus was playing in the match and numerous people came over to the Gryffindor table to wish Albus luck.
“Al,” Harry sat down next to Albus.
“Dad,” Albus smiled. He hadn't been sure if his dad was coming to the match or not.
“I'll be watching the whole time. I'm sure you're going to do great. Just think of it as a match against another house. Ravenclaw, I guess, since their robes are blue,” Harry grinned, “Good luck.”
“Thanks,” Albus replied.
Albus left with the rest of the Hogwarts team a few minutes later. All his friends wished him good luck as he left the Hall.
Nobody talked much as they changed into their robes. Everyone sat down afterwards, ready for Wood's pre-match speech.
However, Wood seemed to be all speeched out. He merely said that they'd trained well and to give it their all. Albus was a little shocked by the shortness of the speech, but quickly got over it as he walked out onto the pitch.
A/N: Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight, as well as all the awesome people who have read and reviewed this!
Also, I wrote a new song fic! It's from Snape's point of view, as I wanted to try something different. It's on my Author Page if you want to check it out!
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