Chapter 2 : The Protest
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Mum was already out of patience because Dad had been called to the Ministry early that morning and would no longer be able to go to Diagon Alley. Mum had been looking forward to having a normal family outing, something they hadn’t had much of lately. She found it ridiculous Dad had to go to the Ministry so much when he wasn’t even employed by them any longer.
“You’d think saving the wizarding world once would be enough for them,” Mum muttered as she grabbed the Floo Powder off the mantel. “They’re never satisfied.”
“He said he’d meet us for supper,” Albus reminded her.
“Yes, dear, I know,” Mum said. “Here, Bethany, you go first.”
Bethany took a handful of Floo Powder, tossed it in the fire, then stepped in and disappeared.
“I’ll meet you there, Mum,” James said, then disappeared with a crack.
Mum sighed and shook her head, then offered the Floo Powder to Kaden, then to Lily. Albus went next, wishing very much that he could’ve Apparated with James, not because he disliked Flooing, but because of what it would’ve meant.
The Leaky Cauldron was bustling when Albus arrived, unsurprising since it was the first Saturday after Hogwarts book lists went out. The clientele was disproportionately parents with Hogwarts aged kids and the usual day crowd were mostly gathered at the bar. Albus waited at a table with James, Lily, Kaden, and Bethany, figuring he ought to wait for his mother to arrive before going off to meet his friends.
When she did arrive, Mum looked slightly calmer than she had in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place. “Everyone got their book lists?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Albus said. Kaden and Bethany both nodded.
“Good. Al, I assume you and Kaden are meeting your friends?”
“In about ten minutes at Flourish and Blotts,” Albus said.
“And Lily, are you meeting Ashtyn and Hugo?”
Lily nodded. “Yes.”
“Good. Here, take some money,” Mum said as she gave Al and Lily a few Galleons each. “Kaden, did your dad give you money?”
Kaden pulled out a wad of ten pound notes. “Just Muggle money.”
Mum smiled and shook her head. She handed Kaden a few Galleons. “Give me that and I’ll take it to Gringotts.”
“Me, too, Aunt Ginny,” Bethany said, holding up her own stack of Muggle money.
“Here,” Mum said, handing Bethany a few Galleons. “You can stay with me, Bethany. Now, James, I don’t know what you were planning on doing, but I will feel a whole lot better if you’re not wandering around on your own. I recognize that you’re of age and you’ll do as you wish, but as your mother I will always worry. And I would appreciate you do the me the courtesy of either hanging around Al and Kaden or finding one of your other cousins.”
James nodded. “I can walk around with Al and Kaden.”
“Thank you,” Mum said. “Let’s meet back here in three hours for an early supper. Bring whatever friends you want.”
Albus, James, and Kaden set off for Flourish and Blotts. Outside, the air was cool and crisp, signaling the autumn season to come. Kids ran up and down the street, their excited chatter echoing off the old brick buildings. Parents ambled more slowly, their own excited chatter breaking through every so often. It was clear they were ready for their kids to go back to school.
Albus couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for his own first year shopping trip- a time that had been riddled with as much anxiety as there had been excitement. James had planted such a seed of doubt in Albus that he wouldn’t be sorted into Gryffindor but instead Slytherin. Looking back, Albus knew it had been silly for even if he had been in Slytherin he would’ve done just fine. Well, except for sharing a dormitory with Scorpius Malfoy. That alone made him grateful he wound up in Gryffindor. Plus, if he hadn’t, he likely wouldn’t have befriended Matt, John, and Amanda.
Flourish and Blotts seemed to be the busiest of all the shops, which made Albus realize it was a stupid meeting place. If Matt, John, Rose, and Amanda were somewhere inside it’d be nearly impossible to find them. They should’ve met somewhere less busy such as Gringotts or the apothecary. As they neared it, however, Albus noticed Matt and John loitering outside the doorway.
“Hey,” Albus said as he dodged a small child carrying a pygmy puff in a cage. “Have you been waiting long?”
“Not long,” Matt said. “Rose and Amanda are inside. They’re buying our books so I don’t have to go in. There’s hardly room to breathe in there.”
“You’d think someone was doing a signing,” Albus said as he peered into the doorway. “I suppose Kaden and I will have to venture in. James, do you want to wait out here?”
“Yeah,” James said. “I don’t need any books.”
“Then I’ll go in with you,” John said. “Rose and Amanda might need help carrying all the books.”
“Since when did you become so chivalrous?” Kaden asked.
“Since when did you learn the word chivalrous?” John smirked.
“Hey, I got more O.W.L.s than you,” Kaden pointed out.
“Well, I’ve got a bit of news, too,” John said as he headed into the shop.
Albus and Kaden followed. “What?” Albus asked.
“I’ve been made Quidditch captain,” John said, beaming.
“You didn’t mention that in your letter!” Albus exclaimed. “Congratulations, mate.”
“Only found out yesterday,” John explained. “Professor Longbottom asked Janie first, you know, out of seniority and all. But apparently she turned him down.”
“I figured she would,” Albus said. “She’s got so much else going on.”
“That’s what Longbottom said. Then he offered it to me, and of course I took it,” John said as he attempted to squeeze past a large witch toting a shopping bag that was leaking something nasty onto the floor.
“Come around this way,” Kaden said, darting around a bookcase. “I see Rose and Amanda in the queue.”
It took them another three minutes to make it to the end of the queue, where Rose and Amanda were standing, each with an impressively large stack of books.
“There you are,” Rose said. “Here, yours are on top, John. Al, yours are just below his.”
“You got mine, too?” Albus asked.
“Yeah, and yours, Kaden,” Amanda said. “Here. They’re on top.”
“Thanks,” Albus said as he took his books. “It’s a madhouse in here.”
Rose nodded. “I’m fairly certain everyone at Hogwarts decided to come to Flourish and Blotts at once. Is Matt still outside?”
“Yeah,” Albus said. “I left James with him.”
“James came?” Rose asked, raising her eyebrows.
Albus nodded. “I was surprised, too. He didn’t even complain when Mum asked him not to wander around alone.”
“Wow,” Rose said. “Then again, he did tend to stick around you at the end of term.”
That was a fair point, Albus thought. It also made him wonder what James would do once Albus returned to Hogwarts. He’d be alone, with their parents. He needed to take that job at Weasleys’.
It took a few minutes, but they eventually managed to squeeze their way out of the shop, which was somehow more difficult than squeezing their way in, as if Flourish and Blotts didn’t want to let anyone leave.
“Whose bright idea was it to get the books first?” Kaden asked as he stuffed his books into the bag he’d brought. “Now we’ll have to carry them all afternoon.”
“If we’d waited much longer they might’ve sold out of some,” Rose pointed out. “And did anyone else notice what the new potions book is?”
“It’s not Advanced Potion Making?” Matt, who’d dropped Potions after fifth year, asked.
“Other than that,” Rose said. “We’ve already got that one from last year. There’s a new one, and it’s…” her voice trailed off.
Albus glanced at Kaden, who had busied himself with the zipper on his bag. “It’s Burke’s book,” Albus said quietly.
“The new professor must be a fan,” John said. “It’s not Amy again, is it?”
“No,” Matt answered. “She can’t keep teaching Potions and continue with her training.”
Kaden still hadn’t said anything and was taking what appeared to be a very long time zipping his bag. “So, where to next?” Albus asked, in an attempt to change the subject.
“Weasleys’,” John and Kaden said simultaneously, a manic grin on each of their faces. “Being my last year and all, the pranking needs to be good this year,” John added.
Rose sighed. “I could stop you, you know.”
“But you won’t,” John said, “because my pranks are harmless. I know where to draw the line. And I’m sure, as Head Girl, you’ll have more important things to worry about.”
Rose had gotten the letter telling her she’d been made Head Girl earlier in the summer. Apparently those letters got sent out weeks before prefect notifications. The entire family had been ecstatic, but none more than Nana Molly, who’d thrown a party in her honor. Rose had pretended to be embarrassed by the whole thing, but Albus could tell she loved the attention. Albus, on the other hand, had not been made Head Boy and couldn’t have been happier about it.
Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes was, if possible, even busier than Flourish and Blotts. Matt and Rose decided not to go inside and instead went Eeylops to look at the owls and pick up owl feed for Matt’s parents. The rest of the group made their way inside, John and Kaden each grabbing baskets and piling them high with what seemed to be half the store.
Albus could only wave at his uncle George, who was toward the back of the store doing a demonstration of a new extended release Nosebleed Nougat that had been developed because teachers had gotten suspicious of students who developed nosebleeds shortly after eating sweets. The extended release sweets were to be eaten an hour before the class that needed skiving off.
“How many classes are you planning to skive off?” Amanda asked John, who’d placed five Skiving Snackboxes into his basket.
John shrugged. “No idea, but I like to have options.”
“Options being selling them to first and second years,” Kaden pointed out.
“What?” Amanda asked.
“Thought of it this summer,” John said. “First and second years can’t get to Hogsmeade and buying them right in the common room is easier than owl order.”
“Genius!” James said, more excited than he’d been in weeks. “Wish I’d thought of that.”
“I plan on seeing how it goes over the first month,” John said. “Then I’ll stock up during the October Hogsmeade visit.”
“Is that even allowed?” Albus asked, thinking of Rose.
John shrugged. “I don’t see why not. No different than them getting them through owl order.”
“I suppose,” Albus said. He pulled out his wand and levitated one Skiving Snackbox off the shelf and caught it. He wasn’t one to skive off class, but liked having a few Nosebleed Nougat around just in case. “You might not want to parade it in front of Rose, though.”
“Think being Head Girl will go to her head a bit?” John asked as he put three value packs of Extendable Ears into his basket.
“Most likely,” Albus said, eyeing John’s already overflowing basket. “Where are you getting the gold to pay for all that?” John’s mum certainly wasn’t one to fund Hogwarts pranks.
“I’ve been doing a bit of tutoring,” John said, grinning wryly.
“No, seriously,” Albus said, rolling his eyes.
“Flying lessons,” John explained. “I’ve been teaching a few of Mum and Dad’s friends’ kids how to fly. Plus some of my younger cousins.”
“Really?” Albus asked, impressed.
John nodded. “Yeah. I want to save up some gold so I can get my own flat once seventh year is over. I really don’t want to live with Mum and Dad next year.”
Albus hadn’t given much thought to where he’d live after Hogwarts. Mostly he’d been focused on his Auror Academy application, which was due on the first of October. He supposed it would be nice to move out and live on his own, though.
“We should get a flat together,” John added. “Especially if it’s in London. Rent is a nightmare in London.”
“I’ll have to live in London,” Albus said. “If I get into the Academy, that is.”
“Which you will,” John assured him. “You think Matt would want to come live with us? Rent would be even cheaper three ways.”
“I don’t know,” Albus said. “I think he’d want to…but I don’t know if he could.”
“Yeah, true,” John agreed quietly. “Well, I’ve got to go pay for all this. I don’t know where Kaden, Amanda, and James got off to.”
John joined the long queue at the till and Albus stood on his tiptoes and tried to peer over the crowd to find James, but his brother was nowhere in sight. Sighing, and thinking about how livid his parents would be if he lost James in Diagon Alley, Albus followed John into the queue. Once they’d both paid, they left the shop, figuring Kaden and Amanda would join them when they were done. Outside, they saw Amanda had already left and was sitting on a bench across the street.
“You didn’t see James in there, did you?” Albus asked as they joined her.
“Not since we got there,” Amanda said.
Albus groaned. “Mum’s going to kill me.”
“Does he really need watching?” John asked skeptically. “I thought he was better.”
“Mostly. He still gets confused some of the time, but it’s not as bad as before,” Albus said. “Mum’s just being Mum. She’s always worried since he can’t do much magic. But honestly, does he really need to do magic to buy something in a shop?”
“There he is,” John said, pointing vaguely toward Weasleys’. “Kaden’s with him.”
Kaden’s bag was stuffed nearly as full as John’s. James hadn’t purchased anything. He walked a few paces behind Kaden, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his trousers. Albus breathed a sigh of relief.
“Where to next?” Albus asked. “Apothecary?”
“We should wait for Rose and Matt,” Amanda reminded him. “I think I see them coming now.” She pointed down the street, toward Gringotts.
Albus craned his head to see around a large witch accompanied by two screaming children and saw the vague outlines of Matt and Rose coming their way. Once they reached the bench, Albus noticed they both looked out of breath, Rose looked extremely excited, and Matt looked apprehensive.
“You’ll never believe what’s going on down there!” Rose exclaimed.
“Is Gringotts giving away free gold?” John asked, his eyes widening.
“Of course not,” Rose said. “There’s a protest going on! Right outside of the Daily Prophet offices.”
Albus stood up and tried to peer through the crowd to see, but they were too far away. “Why? Did they print something awful again?”
“No, they aren’t protesting the paper,” Rose explained. Her face was practically glowing. “They’re demanding Laurentis and Johnson be sacked!”
“Then why wouldn’t they protest in front of the Ministry?” Kaden asked.
“Because of the Muggles,” Amanda said, her voice nearly as excited as Rose’s. “The Ministry is underground. They’d have to protest above it and that’s Muggle London. And the Ministry wouldn’t let them protest inside, of course.”
“Could Laurentis and Johnson be sacked?” Kaden asked.
“Yes,” Rose answered. “Depending on the outcome of the inquiries. If they’re found to have falsified evidence or that they knew full well Boone couldn’t have done that murder, then they could face a fine or get sacked or even prison. That’s if they don’t resign before the inquiry is over. They’re also demanding justice for Boone. He’s suing the Ministry.”
“He’s what?” James asked. “Can you even sue the Ministry?”
“Of course you can,” Rose said. “You can sue anyone you like. Whether you’ll win is another story. But I think he’s really got a chance.”
“What’s he suing for?” Albus asked. “Wrongful imprisonment?”
“He can’t really sue for that,” Matt said, in between worried glances in the direction of the Daily Prophet offices. “The did have a reason for jailing him. The Wizengamot found him guilty, even though he was innocent. He’s suing the Auror Department for mistreatment and discrimination during the investigation. He’s also suing Azkaban for not giving him the proper medical care while he was there. Dad says he’s got a really good attorney, too.”
“The same one he had for the trial?” Albus asked.
“No,” Matt answered. “And this one, according to Dad, wants to turn the whole case into a spectacle for werewolf rights.”
“So this is only the start,” Rose said. “This protest and everything. It’s only going to increase from here.”
“Probably,” Matt said quietly.
“This is a good thing,” Rose pointed out, eyeing Matt carefully.
Matt shrugged. “It’s just a lot…a lot of attention on…well, you know.” He stole a quick glance at James, but James was preoccupied, staring at something in the opposite direction.
“What time did Mum and Dad want us back?” James asked.
Albus looked at his watch. “In about an hour. Why?”
James gave Albus a withering look. “Well, you lot are going to go to that protest.”
“We aren’t-“ Albus began.
“Oh don’t even bother,” James interrupted. “I know you want to.”
Albus looked back down the street, toward the protest, and then back to James. He did really want to go have a look. It would be good for him to keep tabs on what was happening with the Auror Department since he was applying for the Auror Academy.
“If Mum and Dad ask, I’ll say I wanted to go off on my own and you tried to keep me here,” James said. “I swear I won’t tell them you left me. But there’s no way in hell I’m going to that protest.”
“I’ll stay with you,” Matt volunteered. “I don’t want to go back to it.”
Albus chewed his lip and glanced at Rose, who looked all too ready to ditch James and Matt and go back to the protest.
“Okay,” Albus said. “Let’s go.”
Without another word, James and Matt set off toward the the Leaky Cauldron. Albus didn’t think the two of them had ever spent time together alone, but they could bond over their dislike of large groups of strangers.
Albus had never in his life seen a protest, but he knew without a doubt when they reached it. He, Rose, John, Amanda, and Kaden stopped a few feet away and stared at the growing number of people stationed outside the Daily Prophet offices.
“There’s even more now,” Rose said.
It was an eclectic mix. All were overage, but that was where their similarities stopped. The youngest looked hardly older than Albus himself, whereas the oldest looked as old as Aberforth Dumbledore. There were men and women of various races and, based on their outfits, various economic statuses. About three-quarters of them brandished signs that they held high above their heads. Most bore some variation of “Sack Balladanis”, “Jail Johnson”, or “Justice for Boone.” These slogans were also being shouted in unison.
Based on the editorials in the Prophet and the general lack of interest from the Hogwarts population, Albus never would’ve guessed Stuart Boone had this much support. But here were two dozen people who were all on his side.
“What did Matt do when he saw this?” Amanda asked quietly.
“He froze and just stood there, staring,” Rose answered. “We watched for about five minutes, and then he wanted to leave. I think it freaked him out a bit.”
“But this is a good thing,” Amanda said. “Like you just pointed out. I mean, this means people care, that people want change, and they’re willing to work to get that change, even if they themselves aren’t being affected by the discrimination.”
“I know,” Rose agreed. “But the problem is, the people on the other side, the people who don’t want change, they aren’t going to stay quiet, either. It might be good in the long run, but right now? This is going to put lycanthropy in the front of everyone’s minds.”
“And that’s the last thing Matt wants,” Albus said quietly.
“Exactly,” Rose said.
The five of them stood watching the protesters, not joining in, but none of them making any move to leave, either. Part of Albus wanted to drop his shopping bags and march alongside them, but the other part of him wanted to hang back, to disappear into the crowd that had formed, because he knew if one of the Daily Prophet photographers looked out their window and saw Albus Potter participating in a protest, it would be front page news the next day. And so Albus stood in the middle, not protesting, but not leaving either, and certainly not ignoring it.
A/N: For now, Tuesday will be the update day. That could change once the school year begins and I go back to work.
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