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   The atmosphere in the Great Hall the next morning was unlike anything Albus had seen before.  The Hogwarts team was sitting together at the Ravenclaw table, surrounded by students from all four houses.  Teddy and Tyler seemed to be in the thick of it and were loudly discussing tactics. 

    The Australian team was sitting together at the Hufflepuff table, with a large distance between them and the Hufflepuffs.  A small crowd of Australians had congregated around them.

    Albus decided not to join the rest of the Hogwarts team at the Ravenclaw table.  Nobody was unable to play that day, so Albus's days on the team were pretty much over.  To be honest, he was kind of relieved.  There was just so much pressure.

    “I think this tournament has been good for Hogwarts,”  Rose mused,  “Look at everyone.  Nobody seems to care who's in what house.”

    “It'll all go back to normal once the match is over,”  Albus pointed out.

    “Maybe not,”  Rose shrugged,  “You never know.”

    “I don't know, Rose,”  Matt said,  “I don't think one year can change centuries of tradition.”

    “It's worth a try,”  Rose said,  “I think we should all try and get along.”

    “I don't think this has helped international magical cooperation,”  John gestured to the Australian team.  The Hufflepuffs sitting nearby were glaring at them.

    “Competition rarely does that,”  Rose muttered.

    “Well, they'll all be going home soon,”  Matt said cheerfully.

    Rose shot him a dirty look and then looked up at the staff table.  Albus's gaze followed.  The staff table was quite overcrowded that morning.  There were scouts from Quidditch teams, Ministry officials including Albus's Uncle Percy, and a variety of people from Australia and New York. 

    “Look at that witch,”  John pointed to a very tall, beautiful witch with pale white skin and long dark hair.

    “She's Linda's mother,”  Rose told them.

    “Is she-”  John began.

    “Yes,”  Rose whispered,  “She's one, too.”

    “I thought so,”  John said without taking his eyes off the witch.

    There was a loud cheer from the Ravenclaw table and the Hogwarts team began to leave the Hall.  Their entourage followed until they reached the door and then they went to sit back down at various tables.

    The Australian team followed shortly.  The excitement only seemed to increase now that the teams had gone down to the changing rooms.

    A few minutes later people began to leave for the pitch.  The crowd at the staff table left first and the students followed.

    “Albus,”  John said as they got up from the table,  “I've got a few pairs of omnioculars in my trunk.  I want to see it up close when Linda catches that Snitch.”

    “Let's go get them, then,”  Albus replied.

    Rose rolled her eyes.  “Meet us down at the pitch.”  She and Amanda turned towards the door as the boys ran up the grand staircase.

    “Why didn't you just bring them to breakfast?”  Matt asked.

    “Forgot,”  John said.

    The castle was absolutely deserted as they made their way back to Gryffindor Tower.  Albus hadn't seen it that empty during the day.  It was almost disconcerting.

    John had to empty out his entire trunk in order to find the omnioculars.  He had four pairs and handed one to each of the boys.

    “Let's go,”  Albus said,  “We're going to miss the start of the match.”

    Albus completely ignored the no running in the corridors rule as he made his way through the castle.  There wasn't anyone to scold him anyway.  The footsteps behind him told him his friends weren't far behind.
   
    Albus turned a corner and ran smack into something.  He fell down onto his back and looked up, only to see that it was someone.  Not just anyone either.  Albus had collided with Matt's boggart.

    Only, it couldn't be a boggart because if it had been a boggart, it would have manifested itself into what Albus was most afraid of.  At that moment, it probably would have been Willinson.

    The man sneered down at Albus and then smiled creepily.  Albus scrambled up and turned back to look at his friends.

    Matt had turned white and looked far more afraid than Albus had ever seen him before, including when he had faced the boggart and when Malfoy had found out about his lycanthropy.  John was looking from Matt to the man, an obvious horror on his face.  Kaden was looking extremely confused.

    Albus turned and grabbed all three of his friends, pulling them into the nearest classroom.  He slammed the door and pulled out his wand, putting every locking charm he knew onto the knob.

    Matt collapsed onto the nearest chair and put his head in his hands.  “Th-th-that's-”

    “We know,”  Albus whispered.

    “What the hell is he doing here?”  John ranted,  “He's got no business here!”

    “Why's he in the castle anyway?”  Albus began to pace around the room,  “If he's here to watch the Quidditch match, then why isn't he down there?”

    “What if he's not here to watch the Quidditch?”  John said darkly.

    “Who the bloody hell is he?”  Kaden asked loudly.

    Albus glanced at Matt before looking at Kaden.  Matt didn't seem to have heard Kaden's question.

    “His name's Lubar.  He's the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures in Australia,”  Albus explained,  “He's the reason why Matt had to move here, amongst other things.”

    “He's a sick and twisted evil git,”  John muttered,  “What are we going to do?”

    Albus walked over to the door and peered out the small window at the top. Lubar was no longer in sight.

    “I've g-got to go to the Ministry,”  Matt said,  “I've got to t-tell my dad. L-Lubar, he can't be here.”

    Albus paced back and forth in front of the door.  The Ministry.  How would they get there?  Brooms?  No, that would take too long.  They'd have to use the Floo Network, but none of the fireplaces at Hogwarts were hooked up, as far as Albus knew.

    “We're going to have to get to Hogsmeade,”  Albus said,  “You wait here. I'll get my Cloak and the map.  Then we'll sneak into Hogsmeade and Floo to the Ministry.”

    Matt nodded.  “You guys don't have to come.  You can go to the match.”

    “Are you mental?”  John exclaimed,  “That bloke out there is probably worse than Willinson.  We're not letting you do this alone.”

    Albus nodded in agreement before waving his wand and undoing the locking charms.  He cautiously looked out into the corridor before leaving.  It was empty.

    Much to Albus's relief, both the Cloak and the map were right where he'd left them.  He shoved them into his robes and ran back to the classroom.  Matt, John, and Kaden were all talking quietly.  Matt didn't look any less scared, but at least he didn't seem to be in shock anymore.

    “We're not all going to fit underneath it,”  Albus said as he unfolded the cloak.

    “You three get under it,”  John said immediately,  “I'm tallest so I'll take up the most room anyway.  Plus, if we meet up with Lubar again, I'm the best liar.”

    Albus couldn't argue there.  Both he and Matt were horrible liars and Kaden still hadn't gotten over his inability to keep secrets.

    “You take the map, then,”  Albus handed the map to John,  “We've got to get to the one-eyed witch statue on the third floor.

    Albus threw the Cloak over himself, Matt, and Kaden, and the three of them followed John out of the room.  The corridor was still empty, much to Albus's relief. 

    John set a very fast pace and he was soon quite a bit ahead of Albus and the others.  Albus couldn't say anything, though, as it would give away his presence. Instead he tried to run as fast as he could while making the least amount of noise possible.

    The boys made it down the two flights of stairs necessary to get to the third floor and arrived at the statue without seeing anyone.  Albus pulled the Cloak off of them and stuffed it into his pocket.  With a quick tap of his wand, he statue's hump opened and the boys climbed inside.

    Albus lit his wand and took off down the small passageway.  Matt, John, and Kaden followed suit.

    “Why did Kendrick let him in?”  John asked as they ran,  “Doesn't he know what he did?”

    “Yes,”  Matt answered,  “I don't think Kendrick knows he's here.”

    “What did he do?”  Kaden asked.

    “You don't think he came here to see you?”  Albus asked Matt,  “I mean, remember when Killigan saw us that one time and he seemed so interested in finding you?”

    “Of course I do,”  Matt muttered,  “And it really wouldn't surprise me if that's why he's here.  But I'm betting there's another reason.”

    “What did he do?”  Kaden repeated, a bit louder.

    “Why else would he be here?”  Albus asked,  “The match?”

    “Maybe, but I'm betting it's got something to do with Linda,”  Matt replied,  “I don't know for sure, but it seems too coincidental for him to be here just to see me.”

    “What did he do?”  Kaden shouted,  “Why would he want to see you?”

    Matt stopped running and wheeled around to look at Kaden.  “It's a long story.  Lubar's got a grudge against my dad, one that he obviously still has even though we haven't lived in Australia for six years,”  Matt paused,  “He passed a bunch of laws against werewolves and I wound up having to transform with a bunch of other werewolves.  It was bad.”

    Matt resumed walking and didn't elaborate on the subject.  Kaden didn't ask him to.

    “What's your dad going to do about it?”  Kaden asked.

    “I dunno,”  Matt shrugged,  “Maybe talk to Kendrick or something.”

    There was no doubt in Albus's mind that Matt's dad would be able to get Lubar to leave Hogwarts, possibly even leave the country.  Albus had known little about Mr. Eckerton prior to this year, but now he knew that you did not want to be on his bad side.  When it came down to it, Mr. Eckerton was the one who had Balladanis sacked.

    The passage finally began to rise until it came to an abrupt stop at a knotty wooden door.  Albus pressed his ear to the door, but heard nothing.  He carefully pushed it open, wincing as it creaked.

    Seeing nobody in the storage room beyond, Albus beckoned his friends forward. The room was dimly lit, enough for Albus to see a huge amount of boxes littering the floor.  On the far wall he could see a fireplace.

    The boys climbed over the various boxes and stood in front of the fireplace. Albus located a small sack of Floo Powder and then lit a fire.  He turned to his friends.

    “You can't Floo directly into someone's study at the Ministry.  We're going to have to go to the Atrium,”  Albus told them,  “I'll go first, you follow.” Albus took a handful of powder and then handed the bag to Matt.

    He tossed the powder into the fire and stepped inside, shouting “The Ministry of Magic!”

    Albus stumbled out of a different fireplace seconds later.  The Atrium was nearly deserted, save for a few wizards striding towards the lifts, clearly too busy to notice Albus. 

    Matt landed rather ungracefully on the floor.  He picked himself up, brushing stray ash off his robes.

    “Place is deserted,”  Matt said as he looked around.

    “It's a Saturday,”  Albus pointed out,  “Does your dad work Saturdays?”

    “Yeah,”  Matt nodded,  “At least mornings.”

    John was next to step out of the fire, doing so more elegantly than Matt had. He stood in front of the fire, staring around at the Atrium.  His eyes rested on the Fountain of Magical Brethren.

    “This is more fancy than I imagined,”  John said.

    “Bloody hell!”  Kaden shouted as he fell out of the fire,  “This is the Ministry?”

    “Yes,”  Matt said quickly,  “But we haven't got time to explore.  Let's go.”

    Albus followed Matt towards the desk in the front of the Atrium.  There was an old wizard leafing through a copy of the Quibbler, oblivious to his surroundings.  Albus almost thought they'd be able to sneak around him, but he looked up just as they were about to pass.

    “Where do you think you're going?”  he asked and then his eyes rested on Albus,  “Albus Severus Potter.  Why aren't you in school?”

    “Er,”  Albus began, a little unnerved that the man knew who he was.

    Matt stepped in front of Albus.  “We need to go see my dad.  He's the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.  It's kind of an emergency.”

    “Very well,”  the man looked at them oddly,  “Put your wands up here.”

    Albus did as he was told and the others followed suit.  They waited impatiently as the old wizard tested their wands and then handed them back.  He waved them on towards the lifts.

    “What's the point  of that?”  Kaden asked as they waited for a lift.

    “So if you murder anyone, they can tell whose wand did it,”  Albus said bluntly.

    “That's cheerful,”  Kaden replied.
   
    Once the lift arrived, the boys piled in and Matt pushed the number four. Nobody said anything as the lift creaked its way to the fourth floor.

    Matt took off at a run down the corridor after they left the lift.  Albus had never been to this particular floor.  It looked rather similar to the Magical Law Enforcement's floor, with nondescript sets of double doors on one side.

    Matt skidded to a halt in front of the only door that was single and banged his hand loudly on it.  When there was no answer after a few seconds, he banged again.

    “Hold your hippogriffs!”  called a voice from the inside,  “I'm coming, I'm-” Matt's dad said as he opened the door.

    Mr. Eckerton seemed to freeze at the sight of his son and the other three boys.  He gaped at them for a second before shaking his head.

    “Matt?”  he asked and rubbed his eyes, as if he thought he was seeing a hallucination,  “But, why aren't you in school?  How did you get here?  Why are you here?  Albus?  What are you- and John, Kaden?” 

    His eyes rested on Matt again.  “Matt?  What's wrong?”

    Mr. Eckerton stepped aside and let the boys into his study.  He shut the door quietly behind them.

    The study reminded Albus of his dad's.  There were large windows on the side opposite the door, although the scene outside was not real, nor was the gentle rain that was pattering onto it.

    There was a large leather covered chair behind the huge oak desk and a few smaller chairs in front of it.  Along the other two walls were shelves with loads of books.  Most of them were about various magical creatures.

    Albus, Matt, and John took the seats that were in front of the desk while Kaden wandered around the study looking at things.  Mr. Eckerton leaned against the front of his desk and looked at his son.

    “What's happened?”  he asked quietly.

    “L-Lubar,”  Matt said in barely more than a whisper,  “He-he's at Hogwarts.”

    “What?!”  Mr. Eckerton exclaimed.

    “We were on our way to the Quidditch final,”  Matt said,  “A-and we saw him.”

    “Bloody hell!”  Mr. Eckerton stood up and slammed his fist loudly against his desk,  “Did Professor Kendrick allow this?”

    “I don't know,”  Matt replied,  “B-but everyone else was at the match and he was just lurking about the castle.”

    Mr. Eckerton's face hardened.  He looked just like he had when he talked with Professor Balladanis earlier in the term.  “Let's go, boys,”  he said darkly, “I've got to have a word with Professor Kendrick.”

    Albus followed Mr. Eckerton out of his study and down towards the lifts. John's walking speed was nothing compared to Matt's dad's.  The boys had to run to keep up.

    “Where did you Floo from?”  Mr. Eckerton asked once they were in the lift.

    “Honeyduke's,”  Albus answered.

    “We'll Floo there now,”  Mr. Eckerton replied.

    The wizard at the welcome desk looked at them curiously as they rushed towards the fireplaces, but didn't say anything.

    Mr. Eckerton handed Albus a bit of Floo Powder and gestured for him to go first.  Albus stepped into the fire and shouted, “Honeyduke's!”

    Albus began to spin faster and faster.  He saw glimpses of people's houses, shops in Diagon Alley, and a variety of other places he did not recognize.  Then, out of one of the fireplaces, came a hand.  Everything seemed to slow down, but Albus wasn't sure if it actually did or not.

    The hand grabbed him.  Albus fought against it, but it was too strong.  All of a sudden he was laying on a dusty wooden floor, one that was not at all like the one in Honeyduke's.

    Albus coughed and stood up.  His heart was beating fast.  What had happened? Why wasn't he in Honeyduke's?  Where was he?  Whose hand was that?

    Albus grappled for his wand and shakily held it up.  He lit it and looked around the room, seeing no one.

    “Nice to see you, Potter,”  a cold voice said from behind him.

    Albus jumped and turned around.  There, crouching next to the fireplace with his hand inside of it, was Lubar.  He looked even more creepy in the dank room than he did in Hogwarts.

    The fireplace glowed green and Lubar yanked his arm out of it.  John came tumbling out of the fire and scrambled too his feet, looking about.

    Lubar muttered something underneath his breath and stuck his hand in the fire again.

    “What the?”  John whispered to Albus,  “Where are we?  Is that?  Bloody Hell!”

    “Shut up!”  Lubar shouted.

    Albus gazed around the room.  It looked vaguely familiar, but Albus couldn't put his finger on it.  The windows were boarded up, but it was definitely not the Shrieking Shack.  Albus doubted that was connected to the Floo Network anyway.

    The fireplace glowed green yet again, this time sending Kaden onto the floor. This earned another shout from Lubar, who stuck his hand in the fire again.

    Kaden gaped and then got to his feet and stood next to Albus.  He looked absolutely terrified, even before he laid eyes on Lubar.

    Albus wanted nothing more than to run from the room, but he did not know where the building was even located.  Plus, Lubar would probably stun him or something.

    Green light filled the room as the fireplace glowed once more.  Albus knew even before it happened that Matt would be the one to next fall out of the flames. Mere seconds later, that suspicion was confirmed.

    Matt coughed and scrambled to his feet.  He gasped when he saw Lubar and ran over to Albus.

    Lubar, finally satisfied, doused the fire and lit his wand, which illuminated his sinister face.  He began to pace slowly in front of them.

    “Well, well, you went crying to Daddy just as I expected,”  Lubar grinned manically,  “I do love when things work out the way I expect them to.”

    Albus could feel Matt shaking next to him.  He gripped his wand hard, debating whether to try and disarm Lubar.

    “Any idea where you are?”  Lubar asked,  “Dervish and Banges.  Lovely shop, pity about the owner.  Yes, a real shame.”

    Lubar didn't seem at all upset about what happened to the shop owner.  Albus looked around the shop again and now he recognized it.

    “Well, let's not waste our time here,”  Lubar said,  “There's a few people who've been dying to see you.”  Lubar snapped his fingers three times and Albus heard footsteps on the stairs.

    Three wizards descended the stairs and strode into the room.  They lit their wands at the same time and Albus gasped when the light showed their faces.  Jarrett and Quinton Willinson, along with Washburn.  Three people Albus hoped never to see again.

    Albus swallowed hard.  He could see no way out of this.  As good a dueler he was, he was up against four fully qualified wizards.  Three of them did not possess the skills to duel, but Albus had no idea what Lubar was capable of.

    “Ah, yes,”  Lubar smirked,  “What a lovely reunion.  Unfortunately we haven't got time to chat.”

    Before Albus knew it, Washburn had him in a headlock with his wand pointed at his neck.  Quinton Willinson had Kaden and his father had John.  Matt, seeing his friends restrained, made a run for the nearest window.

    “Not so fast, young werewolf,”  Lubar caught him by the back of his robes and wrapped one of his arms around his middle.

    Lubar reached into his robes with his free hand and pulled out an old tea kettle.  He held it out to the other three men and each one put a free hand on it. Albus knew what was going to happen right before it did.  He shared a frightened glance with Matt before feeling a jerk behind his belly button.


A/N:  Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight, as well as everyone who has read and reviewed this!

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